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Music Composition Professor

William Kraft Biography

William Kraft (b. 1923, Chicago) has had a long and active career as composer, conductor, percussionist, and teacher. Until June of 2002, he was chairman of the composition department and holds the Corwin Chair at the University of California Santa Barbara. From 1981-85, Mr. Kraft was the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Composer-in-Residence; for the first year under Philharmonic auspices and the subsequent three years through the Meet The Composer program. During his residency, he was founder and director of the orchestra's performing arm for contemporary music, the Philharmonic New Music Group. Mr. Kraft had previously been a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 26 years; eight years as percussionist, and the last 18 as Principal Timpanist. For three seasons, he was also assistant conductor of the orchestra, and, thereafter, frequent guest conductor.

Mr. Kraft was awarded two Anton Seidl Fellowships at Columbia University, graduating with a bachelor's degree cum laude in 1951 and a master's degree in 1954. His principal instructors were Jack Beeson, Seth Bingham, Henry Brant, Henry Cowell, Erich Hertzmann, Paul Henry Lang, Otto Luening and Vladimir Ussachevsky. He received his training in percussion from Morris Goldenberg and in timpani from Saul Goodman, and studied conducting with Rudolph Thomas and Fritz Zweig.

During his early years in Los Angeles, he organized and directed the Los Angeles Percussion Ensemble, a group which played a vital part in premieres and recordings of works by such renowned composers as Ginastera, Harrison, Krenek, Stravinsky, Varese, and many others. As percussion soloist, he performed the American premieres of Stockhausen's Zyklus and Boulez's Le Marteau sans Maître, in addition to recording Histoire du soldat under Stravinsky's direction.

Mr. Kraft has received numerous awards and commissions, including: two Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards (first prize in 1990 for Veils and Variations for Horn and Orchestra, and second prize in 1984 for Concerto for Timpani and Orchestra); two Guggenheim Fellowships; two Ford Foundation commissions; fellowships from the Huntington Hartford Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts; the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Music Award; the Norlin/MacDowell Fellowship; the Club 100 Distinguished Artist of Los Angeles Award; the ASCAP Award, the NACUSA Award; the Eva Judd O'Meara Award; first place in the Contemporary Record Society Competition; commissions from the Library of Congress, U.S. Air Force Band, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Kronos Quartet, Voices of Change, the Schoenberg Institute, consortium of Speculum Musicae/San Francisco ContemporaryMusic Players/Contemporary Music Forum, The Boston Pops Orchestra, consortium of Pacific Symphony/Spokane Symphony/Tucson Symphony, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, among others.

His works have been performed by many major American orchestras as well as those in Europe, Japan, Korea, China, Australia, Israel, and the USSR. Mr. Kraft's Contextures: Riots - Decade '60 (1967) has been choreographed and performed by both the Scottish National Ballet and the Minnesota Dance Company. In 1986, United Air Lines commissioned a work expressly to accompany a lumetric sculpture by Michael Hayden titled Sky's the Limit, for their pedestrian passageway at Chicago-O'Hare International Airport. In November 1990, Mr. Kraft was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Percussive Arts Society. Compact discs completely devoted to Mr. Kraft's music can be found on Harmonia Mundi, CRI, Cambria, Crystal, Albany, and Nonesuch labels. Other works can be found on GM, Crystal, London Decca, Townhall, EMI, and Neuma. Recent works include Brazen, commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra; Quintessence Revisited and Concerto for Four Percussion Soloists and Symphonic Wind Ensemble, premiered and recorded by the New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble, Frank Battisti conducting.

Perfomances also include Concerto for Timpani and Orchestra by the Dresden (Germany) Philharmonic Orchestra in Tokyo, Japan, also by the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Houston Symphony; premiere of Red Azalea, an opera commissioned by the Modern Music Theatre Troupe (London); residencies at the Chopin Conservatory in Warsaw, Poland and the University of Indiana, Bloomington; recording projects at Oberlin Conservatory and New England conservatory; membership in LA Interchange, a think tank sponsored by the Getty Museum Research Institute.

Professor Kraft has served on the Board of the Monday Evening Concerts, the Music Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts, as musical director and chief advisor for the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra of Los Angeles, and is currently Chairman of the ASCAP Board of Review.


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