School of Music Welcomes Prestigious Conductor William Eddins
By Rebekka Price
The School of Music embarked on a year of transition as leadership was prompted to reflect on the direction of its conducting program in the wake of the retirement of Donald Schleicher after a long and storied career. Upon the conclusion of an extensive search in March 2021, the School of Music announced the appointment of Professor William Eddins as Visiting Director of Orchestras and Conductor of the UI Symphony Orchestra for the 2021–2022 academic year. This year with Eddins will be an important time for the School of Music’s conducting program to learn and grow. Director Jeffrey Sposato shared, “A central focus of our work right now is building diversity, both of our student body and the music we perform. In fact, these two things go hand-in-hand. We want a student body that reflects the diversity of our state, and to achieve that we need to embrace more than just Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. We are also now celebrating music both new and old by BIPOC composers, LGBTQ composers, and women composers. This not only reflects our commitment to diversity – it better prepares our students for the modern music marketplace. Conductors like Professor Eddins, who have performed with musicians both within and outside the classical world and who have experience with a broad range of composers and styles, help to remind our students that music is a living thing that grows and develops, and that embracing that ideal is essential for professional musicians today.”
In addition to conducting the school’s premier orchestra, the UI Symphony Orchestra, Professor Eddins will be mentoring graduate orchestral conducting students and providing his expertise in a faculty workshop that will explore innovative ideas for the programming of large ensembles, including orchestras, choruses, and bands. When asked about his upcoming conducting classes and seminars, Eddins commented, ”For me it is always fun working with younger conductors who are trying to progress in what they do, because conducting is the art of the simple made difficult. At the same time, when you are conducting, it should be your job to make the difficult be easy.”
William Eddins began his conducting career as an apprentice conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the tutelage of Daniel Barenboim. He has since served as a guest conductor for nearly every major orchestra and held the positions of Resident Conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1997 to 2003 and Music Director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra from 2005 to 2017. He regularly conducts the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with soloist Wynton Marsalis, and he has collaborated with such renowned artists as Renée Fleming, Yo-Yo Ma, Daniel Barenboim, Itzhak Perlman, Dawn Upshaw, Joshua Bell, The Kronos Quartet, and Edgar Meyer.
A native of Buffalo, NY, Eddins attended the Eastman School of Music, studying with David Effron and graduating at age 18. He also studied conducting with Daniel Lewis at the University of Southern California and was a founding member of the New World Symphony in Miami, FL. He has released a compact disc recording on his own label that includes Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata and William Albright’s The Nightmare Fantasy Rag.
In addition to his talents as a conductor, he is also a gifted pianist and chamber musician, as well as a savvy entrepreneur. One of his most notable entrepreneurial pursuits was becoming the cofounder of the MetroNOME Brewery LLC, a socially missioned brewery established during summer 2020 with the objective of Nurturing Outstanding Music Education in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The proceeds from MetroNOME go to providing musical instruments, lessons, and education for underprivileged youth in the Twin Cities metro area.