Composer Amy Williams

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Biography

Amy Williams was born in Buffalo, NY in 1969, the daughter of Diane, now retired violist with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and Jan, percussionist and Professor Emeritus at the University at Buffalo. She started playing the piano at the age of four and took up the flute a few years later (her first teacher was the legendary Robert Dick, so she could soon play “Chopsticks” in multiphonics…). She grew up in the heyday of the Center for the Creative and Performing Arts, hearing all the latest contemporary music and meeting composers who would later become influential to her: John Cage, Morton Feldman, Lukas Foss, Elliott Carter and many others. She went to Bennington College and, while there, decided to devote her life to performing and composing contemporary music. After a fellowship year in Denmark, she returned to Buffalo to complete her Master’s degree in piano performance at the University at Buffalo with pianist-composer Yvar Mikhashoff and her Ph.D. in composition, working primarily with David Felder. She returned to Bennington in 1998 as a member of the music faculty and she then moved on to a faculty position at Northwestern University in 2000. Since 2005, she has been teaching composition and theory at the University of Pittsburgh, where she recently was named Associate Professor.

Amy’s compositions have been presented at renowned contemporary music venues in the United States, Asia, Australia, and Europe, including Ars Musica (Belgium), Gaudeamus Music Week (Netherlands), Dresden New Music Days (Germany), Musikhøst Festival (Denmark), Festival Aspekte (Austria), Festival Musica Nova (Brazil), Thailand International Composition Festival, Music Gallery (Canada), LA County Museum of Art, Piano Spheres (Los Angeles), Lincoln Center’s Mostly Music and Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music. Her works have been performed by leading soloists and ensembles, including the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, Ensemble Aleph, JACK Quartet, Ensemble Dal Niente, Wet Ink, Talujon, Empyrean Ensemble, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, California E.A.R. Unit, Dinosaur Annex, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), H2 Saxophone Quartet, Bent Frequency, pianists Ursula Oppens, Corey Hamm and Amy Briggs, and bassist Robert Black. Amy’s pieces appear on the Parma, VDM (Italy), Blue Griffin and New Ariel labels. A portrait CD of recent solo and chamber works, entitled “Crossings: Music for Piano and Strings”, was released by Albany Records in 2013.

Amy formed the Bugallo-Williams Piano Duo with Helena Bugallo, while both were graduate students at the University at Buffalo. The Duo has been featured at important contemporary music festivals and series throughout Europe and the Americas, including the Ojai Festival, CAL Performances (California), Miller Theatre, Symphony Space, Le Poisson Rouge (New York), Musica Contemporanea Ciclos de Conciertos (Buenos Aires), Festival Attacca (Stuttgart), Palacio de Bellas Artes (Mexico City), Warsaw Autumn Festival, Cologne Triennale, and Wittener Täge für Neue Kammermusik. The Duo’s debut CD of Conlon Nancarrow’s complete music for solo piano and piano duet (Wergo, 2004) garnered much critical acclaim. Wergo released the Duo’s second CD (music of Stravinsky) in 2007 and their third (music of Morton Feldman and Edgard Varèse) in 2009. Their recording of the complete piano duets of György Kurtág was just released and the second volume of Stravinsky transcriptions is forthcoming in 2016, also on Wergo.

Amy has won the Wayne Peterson Composition Prize (Sextet), Audio Inversions Composition Prize (Cineshape 1), Thayer Award for the Arts, an ASCAP Award for Young Composers (verre-glaz), and fellowships from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (the 2016 Goddard Lieberson Fellowship), American-Scandinavian Foundation, Howard Foundation and John S. Guggenheim Foundation. She received a 2009 Fromm Music Foundation Commission to write a piece for the JACK Quartet. An avid proponent of contemporary music, she served as Assistant Director of June In Buffalo, Director of New Music Northwestern, and is currently on the artistic boards of the Pittsburgh-based concert series, Music on the Edge, and the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust for New Music. She recently became the Artistic Director and Composer-in-Residence of the New Music on the Point festival in Vermont.

Her ambitious Cineshape series of chamber pieces inspired by different films was presented in May 2016 with live performances by the JACK Quartet, flutist Lindsey Goodman and percussionist Scott Christian, with a new video component by Aaron Henderson. These works and other chamber and solo pieces were recorded for a second portrait CD on the Albany label, to be released in early 2017. Upcoming commissions include works for the Stony Brook Chamber Players, Tim Brady’s international guitar quartet project, the Bugallo-Williams Piano Duo’s “Microludes for György Kurtàg” and a Koussevitsky commission for soprano Tony Arnold and the JACK Quartet.

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