Steven Rickards is one of the finest countertenors in the United States, with an interest in both early music and contemporary compositions.
Rickards attended the Indiana University School of Music, where he was the first countertenor to earn the master of music degree in vocal performance (1979). He received a Fulbright-Hayes Scholarship and Rotary International Grant, which he used for continued studies at Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.
He also studied at Aldeburgh, England, with Robert Spencer and Sir Peter Pears, and continued work on his doctorate at Florida State University.
He became well-known through a longtime association with Joshua Rifkin, a leading Bach interpreter (known for his theories about one-voice-to-a-part performance of Bach's "choral" works). He has performed in nearly all of Bach's large-scale choral compositions with Rifkin's Bach Ensemble, traveling with them to such diverse venues as the New York Mostly Mozart Festival, the Festival of Perth (Australia), and London's Royal Albert Hall. He has sung in Bach's Christmas Oratorio in a live broadcast on National Public Radio with the Smithsonian Chamber Players. He performed the St. John Passion in Berlin and Munich in 1997 with the Regensburger Domspatzen.
Rickards is also well known for his performances of music of George Frideric Handel. He participated in the Boston Early Music Festival production of the opera Teseo in 1985, sang the role of Apollo in Terpsichore, and has also appeared in Alessandro, Partenope, and Siroe, as well as the oratorios Belshazzar, Samson, and of course, Messiah. He has appeared in Handel performances by Tafelmusik, the Miami Bach Society, Portland Baroque, and the Handel and Haydn Society of Boston.
Rickards has sung in several twentieth century premiere performances of previously forgotten Baroque operas and vocal works. These include Matthew Locke's Psyche (London, with the English Opera Society, Philip Pickett conducting), L'Olympiade by J.A. Hasse (Dresden, with the Stuttgart Kammerchor), and Mondonville's De Profundis (American premiere, Harvard University).
He has sung in recital or concert with the New London Consort, the Seattle Baroque Orchestra, the Waverly Consort, Ensemble Ouabache, Chanticleer, the King's Noyse, and the Saint Louis, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh symphony orchestras.
He has formed a duo with lutenist Dorothy Linell. The Linell-Rickards Duo has toured in the United States and Central America giving performances of Elizabethan song. They also conduct master classes and have been artists in residence at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the University of Costa Rica. They have recorded two solo albums for Naxos.
In addition Rickards has recorded Bach cantatas with Joshua Rifkin for Decca-London, Siroe on Newport Classics, more Bach cantatas and the Mass in B minor for Koch Classics, and an album of Buxtehude sacred cantatas for PGM.
Rickards also has an interest in twentieth century music. The microtonal composer John Eaton wrote the part of Trinculo in his opera The Tempest for Rickards, who premiered it at Santa Fe in 1985. Rickards recorded a program of music by Britten and Purcell with the Indianapolis Children's Choir on the VAI label, and participated in the Harmonia Mundi recording of the revised version of Pärt's Berlin Mass with Paul Hillier and Theatre of Voices.
Rickards lives in Indianapolis where he is on the faculties of two of that city's universities, the University of Indianapolis, and Jordan College of Music at Butler University. He teaches singing, is the director of the U. of I.'s Vocal Arts Institute, and is vocal consultant to the Indianapolis Children's Choir.