Dr. Bill Banfield joins the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (WCO) for a three-year residency partnership starting in July 2021, commissioning two major works for the WCO and the greater Madison community while in Residence. Bill will be embedded into the orchestra’s artistic operations as well as the larger community in ways that foster collaboration and creativity. 

Dr. Banfield, alongside Music Director Andrew Sewell, will play a vital role in strengthening the WCO's relationship with our long-standing audience while reaching new and more diverse audiences in our community. The composer-orchestra relationship is a vital symbiosis, with strong benefits for the WCO and Bill, and rich possibilities for enhancing the WCO’s relevancy, inspiring more people across our community.

Wisconsin State Journal introduces Dr. Banfield, July 18, 2021

The Power of Music by Scott Girard, October 28, 2021

Power and Grace by Michael Muckian, January 9, 2022

Wisconsin State Journal highlights UW Collaboration, January 28, 2022

Conversation with Dr. Banfield on WORT's "Classical Jukebox," January 27, 2022

Motions into Music: Channel 3000 Feature, January 26, 2022

"Bill Banfield is one of the most original voices on the scene today. He tunes us into the conversation happening worldwide between the notes of contemporary musical culture."
– Henry Louis Gates


Bill Banfield is an award-winning composer whose symphonies, operas, chamber works have been performed and recorded by major symphonies across the country. Few have a wider, performed professional composing output, that has had public concert performances, reviews, radio, recordings of some 12 symphonies, 7 opera, 9 concerti, chamber, jazz and popular forms. This alone making Banfield one of the most performed, recorded composers of his generation.

Learn more about Bill and his works.

Career Overview

In the past 25 years, Dr. Bill Banfield has produced a body of productive music/arts scholarship activities, compositions, recordings, books, establishing active teaching, professional service and creative work that contributes to contemporary arts leadership.

    Academic Appointments

    • Current; Professor Emeritus of Africana Studies/Music and Society
      • Director of the Center for Africana Studies/Liberal Arts
      • Department of Composition and the graduate school, Berklee School of Music
    • Visiting Professor of Composition, University of Minnesota (2005)
    • Visiting Atelier Professor, Princeton University (2003)
    • Endowed Chair Humanities, Fine Arts, Professor of Music, Director of American Cultural Studies/Jazz, Popular, World Music Studies, University of St. Thomas (1997-2005)
    • Assistant Professor African American Studies/Music, Indiana University (1992-1997)

    Other Appointments/Posts

    • Founder/Director of Jazz Urbane
    • Research associate with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (CFCH), one of the Smithsonian’s 12 research and cultural centers. His tenure extends through July 2024. Banfield’s work will focus on what he identifies as cultural through-lines, delineating the ways in which contemporary artistry and new works harken back and hold onto critical cultural linkages to understand tradition in the 21st Century
    • Pulitzer Prize judge in American music (2010 & 2016)
    • National public radio show host having served as arts and culture correspondent for The Tavis Smiley Show
    • Hired by Quincy Jones to write a national music curriculum and book for schools learning about American popular music culture (2010)
    • W.E.B. Dubois fellow at Harvard University (2002)
    • Founding Chair: Black Music Culture for the Association of American Culture and the Popular Culture Association of America conferences
    • Executive Director of Videmus/Visionary records
    • Contributing Editor of Cultural Studies and Jazz Publications, Scarecrow Press (2005)
    "In the history of most of Western music culture, the works which came from its own time were perfectly made with what needed to come forward. Bill's music and work fits these criteria; his music is well made for the times."
    – Gunther Schuller


    • Landscapes in Color: Conversations With Black American Composers (2002)
    • Black Notes: Essays Of A Musician Writing In A Post Album Age (2004)
    • Cultural Codes: Makings Of A Black Music Philosophy (2010)
    • Representing Black Music Culture (2011)
    • Ethnomusicologizing: Essays On Music in the New Paradigms (2015)
    • Pat Patrick: American Musician and Cultural Visionary (2016, Scarecrow Press)


    • Dr. Cornel West has called him, "one of the last grand Renaissance men in our time, a towering artist, exemplary educator, rigorous scholar, courageous freedom fighter"
    • Noted jazz writer and critic Bob Blumenthal wrote, "The imagination from which this ensemble's music springs belongs to Bill Banfield. It knows no borders, be they stylistic, historic, ethnic or age-related. It views music as the common ground upon which all of us can meet, and celebrate. Banfield's original compositions and arrangements of well-chosen standards is nothing short of alchemical, as he tends the shared roots of jazz. While his perspective rarely stands still, there is no feeling of mash-up. Everything and everyone flows. That is what happens when music tests our imagination. Listen and hear where the Imagine Orchestra leads you."