William C. Banfield will join Longy School of Music in Fall 2022 as the school’s first Senior Scholar in Residence.
His remarkable career of arts leadership, scholarship, and musical innovation spans a wide array of roles—from Founding Director of the Center for Africana Studies at Berklee College of Music, to Research Associate for the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage—and from national public radio show host with the Tavis Smiley Show and three-time Pulitzer Prize judge in American music, to founder of contemporary jazz art record label JazzUrbane.
Banfield is also an award-winning composer whose symphonies, operas, and chamber works have been performed and recorded by major music organizations across the country. As well, he conducts with the acclaimed eclectic chamber ensemble Imagine Orchestra.
He will serve as an advisor and thought partner for Longy’s leadership, providing professional development for Longy faculty and staff, teaching signature courses for students at Longy, and conducting the Imagine Orchestra events where Longy students will play side-by-side with professional ensemble members.
Longy President Karen Zorn notes “We are honored to have Bill join Longy as our first ever Senior Scholar in Residence. Our entire community will benefit from his expansive career in scholarship, teaching, and performance. But beyond these contributions, we look forward to having a partner with such warmth and openness, curiosity and kindness, and the deep sense of joy he brings to his work.”
As an author, Dr. Banfield has penned six books on the intersection of music, cultural criticism and Blackness, including Representing Black Music Culture (2011) and Cultural Codes: Makings of a Black Music Philosophy (2010). Henry Louis Gates, Jr. underscores that “Bill Banfield is one of the most original voices on the scene today…Not only do his musings help us make sense of…change across generations, from jazz to hip-hop, the Harlem Renaissance to Cuba; they remind us that we each play a part, as makers, producers, listeners, or consumers, in the symphony of expression marking the beats of our journey here on earth.”
Banfield speaks vividly on the role of artists in society and the vision he will bring to Longy: “Music is more than music; it is tones organized to tell human stories, with bigger throughlines that connect across time, peoples, cultures, to define and sustain people. Today’s young artists and musicians are so much more flexible and adaptable—and their worlds are wider at a glimpse and at a touch. That’s a very powerful position to be in…if they know what to do with it, and why. The key is being in touch with the impulses and needs of the times you live in, looking forward, creating expressions, and assessing their impact. Artistic citizenry—this will be our work to do together at Longy, forging conscious creative works that look to bring our worlds together.”
Dean Judith Bose adds, “Bill is an outstanding artist, leader and scholar who will inspire us all—he models making music transformative in every way.”
Bill Banfield, Imagine Orchestra, and Longy students who will play side-by-side with the eclectic ensemble.