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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

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Birth name: Willam C. (Bill) Banfield

Born: 1961

Genres: Creative Music

Occupation:  Musician, Composer, Guitarist, Professor/ Educator, Author, Record company owner

Instruments: Guitar, Piano, Bass Clarinet

Years Active: 1980 - present

Labels: Innova, JAZZURBANE RECORDS/SUGO MUSIC GROUP

 

COMPOSING & PERFORMANCES

Dr. Bill Banfield currently serves as Professor of Africana Studies/Music and Society, director of the Center for Africana Studies/ Liberal Arts, and teaches in the Department of Composition and the graduate school, Berklee College of Music. In 2002, he served as a W.E.B. Dubois fellow at Harvard University and was appointed by Toni Morrison to serve as the visiting Atelier Professor, Princeton University, 2003.

     Having served twice as a Pulitzer Prize judge in American music (2010/2016), 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. Banfield has been a national public radio show host having served as arts and culture correspondent for The Tavis Smiley Show. In 2010, he was hired by Quincy Jones to write a national music curriculum and book for schools learning about American popular music culture.

     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", and Henry Louis Gates wrote of him, "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..". Another mentor, Gunther Schuller wrote recently; "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, 2015.

As composer, Banfield’s works have been commissioned, performed and recorded by orchestras including; the National, Atlanta, Dallas, Akron, Detroit, New York Virtuoso, Grand Rapids, Akron, Richmond, Toledo, Savannah, Indianapolis, Sacramento, San Diego symphonies and the Havana Camerta of Cuba.

His works as a composer and performing- recording jazz artist are carried on Atlantic, TelArc, Collins

Classics (London), Centaur, Albany/Visionary recordings and Innova records. His music has been performed and/or recorded by; George Duke, Patrice Rushen, Don Byron, Leon Bates, Christian Scott, Najee, Ron Carter, Delfeayo Marsalis, Greg Osby, Teri Lyn Carrington, Oliver Lake, Regina Carter, Rachel Z, Jon Faddis, Marcus Belgrave, Billy Childs, Nnenna Freelon, Alphonso Johnson, Ndugu Chancelor, and Nelson Rangel.

 

OTHER ACADEMIC APPOINTMENTS

     Prior, he served as the Endowed Chair Humanities, Fine Arts, professor of Music, director of American Cultural Studies/Jazz, Popular, World Music Studies, University of St. Thomas, MN (1997-2005). Banfield served as assistant professor of African American Studies/Music, Indiana University (1992-1997) where he developed the Undine Smith Moore Collection of Scores and Manuscripts of Black Composers.

     In 2005, he served as visiting professor of Composition, University of Minnesota. In addition, he has lectured and been in residence at; Duke, Fisk, Morehouse, Spellman, Carnegie Mellon, University of Virginia Tech, Augsburg, University of Texas, University of Michigan, University of Maryland, Atlanta University, Bowling Green State, St. Augustine, North Central State, Augusta Gustavia, University of North Carolina, University of Pennsylvania, Butler University, Hunter College, University of Richmond, University of Connecticut, University of Massachusetts (Amherst), University of Southern Alabama, Louisiana College, Louisiana State University at Alexandria, Bishop State College and UCLA. Banfield served as founding chair of Black Music Culture for the Association of American Culture and the Popular Culture Association of America conferences. He served as executive director of Videmus/Visionary records, and joined Scarecrow Press (2005) as its contributing editor of Cultural Studies and Jazz Publications.

EDUCATION

     A native Detroiter, he received his Bachelor of Music from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, a Master of Theological Studies from Boston University and a Doctor of Musical Arts in composition from the University of Michigan. His formal composition studies were under T.J. Anderson, George Russell, Theodore Antoniou, Bill Bolcom and Bill Albright.

 

PUBLICATIONS, AS AN AUTHOR

     He has authored 6 books on music, arts and cultural criticism, history and biographies, covering everything from contemporary Black composers to Ornette Coleman, Nikki Minaj and Kendrick Lamar. 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) and Pat Patrick: American Musician and Cultural Visionary  (2016, Scarecrow Press).

 

PRODUCING

Bill Banfield is founder/director of JazzUrbane, a contemporary jazz art recording label, dedicated to producing creative new artists. The seminal project released in 2014, was produced by legendary icon George Duke and included such leading artists as; Christian Scott, Terri Lyne Carrington, Najee, Greg Osby, and Grace Kelly. The label has already produced and released 8 albums internationally, distributed and marketed by Sugo Music Group in 300 countries.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."

 

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CRITICAL REVIEWS

“… comfortable and persuasive inhabiting such expansive terrains, Bill Banfield has the musical wingspan and is confident in both concert hall and jam session, at home and ease whether committing his inspiration to manuscript or expressing it in the moment… Banfield is also a guitar player who understands the power of his instrument to create improvisational heat and lyrical glow, and a bandleader who presents his partners with music that can be felt together. Among those things, Banfield is a player who communicates. Those known best for their writing are often disparaged when they pick up an instrument, accused in jazz parlance of playing “arranger’s piano”. Banfield, in contrast, plays what we might call composer’s guitar, an approach in which ideas with melodic content and forward-springing suggestion trump self-contained ethnical exercises. He writes in a similar spirit, allowing his themes to resonate and grow,while his arrangements allow every member of the band to shine... Banfield’s perspective on jazz allows for stretching and grooving, and music by two of his idols, Wes Montgomery and John Coltrane, fits snugly among his own creations while receiving distinct interpretations... Much like a Cubist portrait, his work provides multiple perspectives and reveals highlights and shadows, without disrupting the integrity of the overall form.”

—Bob Blumenthal

 

".. Banfield, a dazzling guitarist blessed with god-like fingers, a marvelous composer, and a prolific scholar/writer in his own right, is cut from the same cloth as Patrick and Baraka. Indeed, he is a “son” of Baraka, if you will, because his music, writing, and intellect embody the principles of the “changing same.” He ignores boundaries of genre and style, embracing the totality of Black music and culture in everything he does. Their collaboration, along with the Patrick’s commitment to preservation and documentation, turned what might have been just another jazz biography into a genuine event.."

—Robin Kelley

 

” Banfield swings between music genres... he doesn’t choose one camp over the other… his works run the kind of gamble that baffles record company executives and makes jazz radio music directors spin their wheels trying to figure him out.”    

—Downbeat Magazine

 

“Composer and musicologist Bill Banfield is one of the most original voices on the scene today, and in his new book of essays, Ethnomusicologizing, he tunes readers in to the conversation happening worldwide between the notes of contemporary musical culture. Not only do his musings help us make sense of the places and periods 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.”         

— Henry Louis Gates, Jr. - Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University

 

"Banfield is important on several levels… form, architecture, poetic, well conceived, thought provoking prose, sense of immediacy, a unique communication steeped in American folklore.”   

—Delfayeo Marsalis

 

“I’ve heard music described as a language made up of many dialects. Embodied in his music is a celebration of many of these dialects with a knowledgeable respect for firm, substance and tradition.” 

Patrice Rushen

 

"Mr. Banfield's work (Symphony No. 6) is filled with American rhythms, jazz harmonies and warm romantic melodies which are woven all at once into a reflective work of nostalgic subtlety and quite understanding.”

—Cleveland Plain Dealer

 

"William Banfield is one of the last grand Renaissance men in our time. He is a towering artist, exemplary educator, rigorous scholar, courageous freedom fighter, and spiritual genius. To put it bluntly, Brother Banfield represents the best of the richest tradition in the modern world- the Black music tradition."

—Dr. Cornel West

 

 

“Bill Banfield—composer, performer, scholar, and critic—has produced another must-read book with Black Notes. He writes about the glorious past, he controversial present, and the boundless future of Black music from his position on the front lines, and no one does it more engagingly or insightfully than he does. This is a book from which to learn and by which to teach, and to enjoy.”

—Henry Louis Gates Jr., chair, Department of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

 

“Dr. Banfield is undertaking a daunting task defining Black music. [His] text is without a doubt a significant contribution to the research that has been and is continuing to be collected for present and future scholars who are engaged in solving the riddle of who Americans really are. This approach creates many more questions than answers, but at this time in our history, literature of this nature is a welcome respite to the alternative of sociopolitical and historical subterfuge perpetrated through the mythology of the dominant culture. This is a must-read.”

—Ellis L. Marsalis, professor emeritus, University of New Orleans

 

“William Banfield is extremely well qualified to have written this book. Here is a project that brings together all of his gifts as a scholar, an academic, and a musician—one who has played in many different contexts and has composed for them as well. Nothing like this has ever appeared before, and that could be because no one as qualified as Banfield has made the choice to take on a project of this magnitude. His belief comes down to something he likes to say about the role of those who work in culture, which is ‘to illuminate the world.’ This book contains, as it should, plenty of light.”

—Stanley Crouch

 

“Bill Banfield is a modern magician who, when he raises his baton on music of all kinds, fetches forth a spirit and image that touches new meanings and interpretations. This beautiful and innovative volume breathes new life and understanding to all notes and interpretations.  It is a volume not to sleep with but to sing on. Nobody interprets with a clearer voice and higher tone.”

—Ray B. Browne, book review editor, Journal of American Culture

 

"A valuable guide to the repertoire... "

—Times Union

 

“Bill Banfield—composer, performer, scholar, and critic—has produced another

must-read book with Black Notes. He writes about the glorious past, he controversial present, and the boundless future of Black music from his position on the front lines, and no one does it more engagingly or insightfully than he does. This is a book from which to learn and by which to teach, and to enjoy.”

Henry Louis Gates Jr. - Chair, Department of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

 

“Dr. Banfield is undertaking a daunting task defining Black music. [His] text is without a doubt a significant contribution to the research that has been and is continuing tobe collected for present and future scholars who are engaged in solving the riddle of who Americans really are. This approach creates many more questions than answers, but at this time in our history, literature of this nature is a welcome respite to the alternative of sociopolitical and historical subterfuge perpetrated through the mythology of the dominant culture. This is a must-read.”

—Ellis L. Marsalis - Professor Emeritus, University of New Orleans

“William Banfield is extremely well qualified to have written this book. Here is a project that brings together all of his gifts as a scholar, an academic, and a musician—one who has played in many different contexts and has composed for them as well. Nothing like this has ever appeared before, and that could be because no one as qualified as Banfield has made the choice to take on a project of this magnitude. His belief comes down to something he likes to say about the role of those who work in culture, which is ‘to illuminate the world.’ This book contains, as it should, plenty of light.”

—Stanley Crouch

 

“Bill Banfield is a modern magician who, when he raises his baton on music of all kinds, fetches forth a spirit and image that touches new meanings and interpretations. This beautiful and innovative volume breathes new life and understanding to all notes and interpretations. It is a volume not to sleep with but to sing on. Nobody interprets with a clearer voice and higher tone.”

—Ray B. Browne - Book review editor, Journal of American Culture