Suzanne Stephens was born in Waterloo, Iowa, USA. She studied clarinet with Ralph Hills, Sidney Forrest, Ulysses Delecluse, and Jerome Stowell. She received a Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Music at Northwestern University (near Chicago), and the Konzertexamendiploma with Hans Deinzer at the State Conservatory for Music and Theatre in Hannover.
After winning a silver medal at the International Clarinet Competition in Geneva and the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis at Darmstadt, she was appointed principal clarinettist in the Radio Orchestra of the South German Radio in Stuttgart in 1973. She first collaborated with Stockhausen in 1974, a partnership that lasted 33 years and resulted in over 40 compositions for her. “Scarcely has there been so fruitful a relationship between clarinetist and composer,” writes Pamela Weston in Clarinet Virtuosi of Today. In LICHT, Stockhausen composed “a monumental basset-horn part for Suzanne in the role of EVE” which consists of c.8 hours of music. She has performed these works and individual scenes of these operas in innumerable concerts worldwide, and features in 19 CDs of the Stockhausen Complete Edition.
Helping with the edition (scores and records) of Stockhausen works is very important to her, as is helping the many clarinettists who seek out her help in learning these works. Her main preoccupation is to ensure that these works are guaranteed an unlimited future in our musical life.