“Williams has a great ear for fresh, varied, and incisive fields of sonic events.”


Photo by Rob Davidson


Amy Williams was born in Buffalo, New York 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, Julius Eastman and so 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 with David Felder, Charles Wuorinen and Nils Vigeland. 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 at the University of Pittsburgh, where she is a Full Professor. She was a 2017-2018 Fulbright Scholar at the University College Cork, Ireland and a Visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania in spring 2019.

Amy’s first concert, c. 1975
The Duo with Lukas Foss at June In Buffalo, 2000

Amy’s compositions have been presented at renowned contemporary music venues throughout the United States, Asia, Australia, and Europe, including the Lucerne Festival (Switzerland), Time:Spans, Lincoln Center, Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music, Gaudeamus Festival (Netherlands), Dresden Contemporary Music Days (Germany), Ars Musica (Belgium), Aspekte Festival (Austria), Festival Musica Nova (Brazil) and Thailand International Composition Festival. Her works have been performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Orpheus, JACK Quartet, Ensemble Musikfabrik, Ensemble Surplus, Dal Niente, Wet Ink, Junction Trio, Talujon, Arditti Quartet, International Contemporary Ensemble, Da Capo Chamber Players, Bent Frequency, Grossman Ensemble, pianist Ursula Oppens, soprano Tony Arnold, bassist Robert Black and many others. In addition to two portrait CDs of solo and chamber works on Albany Records, “Crossings: Music for Piano and Strings” (2013) and “Cineshape and Duos” (2017), Amy’s music appears on the Parma, VDM, Centaur, Blue Griffin, Ravello and New Focus labels.

Amy formed the Bugallo-Williams Piano Duo with Helena Bugallo while they both were graduate students at the University at Buffalo. The Duo has performed throughout Europe and the Americas, at the Ojai Festival, CAL Performances, Other Minds (California), Miller Theatre (New York), Ciclo de Música Contemporánea (Buenos Aires), Palacio de Bellas Artes (Mexico City), Warsaw Autumn Festival, Cologne Triennale and Wittener Täge für Neue Kammermusik, to name a few. The Duo’s debut recording of Conlon Nancarrow’s complete music for solo piano and piano duet (Wergo, 2004) garnered much critical acclaim. Subsequent recordings on Wergo include two volumes of Stravinsky transcriptions (2007, 2018), works of Morton Feldman/Edgard Varèse (2009) and György Kurtág (2015), as well as the original version of Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion in a recently published facsimile edition. As a soloist, Amy has performed John Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes throughout the US and Europe. She often includes new interludes written for her by over a dozen composers.

Amy playing John Cage’s Water Music, 2010

Amy has received composition fellowships from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, American-Scandinavian Foundation, Howard Foundation, Guggenheim Foundation, Bellagio and MacDowell. She received a Fromm Music Foundation commission for Richter Textures for the JACK Quartet and a Koussevitsky Music Foundation commission for Ûrquintett for soprano Tony Arnold and the JACK Quartet. She was featured with JACK in a Miller Theatre portrait concert in February 2024, including the world premiere (and Miller commission) of Tangled Madrigal. She received the Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2024. An avid proponent of contemporary music, Amy served as Assistant Director of June In Buffalo, Director of New Music Northwestern, and is currently on the boards of Music on the Edge, the Amphion Foundation and the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust for New Music. She has been the Artistic Director of the New Music On The Point festival in Vermont since 2015.