Bolcom, William

Alternative names
Birth 1938-05-26

Biographical notes:

American composer, pianist, and author.

From the description of Typewritten letters signed (3), and Autograph letter signed, dated : Ann Arbor, 12 and 28 April 1981, and 21 June 1988, and [New York, 15? May 1988], to Jim Fuld, 1981 Apr. 12 and 28, 1988 June 8. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270874434

William Bolcom is a composer and pianist. Joan Morris is a mezzo-soprano. They are both members of the University of Michigan School of Music faculty. Bolcom and Morris have given numerous performances since 1971. They have also recorded albums of classical and popular songs.

From the description of William Bolcom and Joan Morris papers, 1960-1998. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 85777636

From the description of William Bolcom and Joan Morris papers, 1960-1998. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 78846623

William Bolcom, born in Seattle, Washington in 1938, has been recognized as one of America's most significant composers and pianists. He began piano study at the age of five. He later studied composition with John Verall, giving piano recitals throughout the Northwest before entering the University of Washington as a private student of composition, continuing his studies with Verall, and piano, with Berthe Poncy Jacobson. He received his B.A. from the University of Washington in 1958. Further studies followed with Darius Milhaud at Mills College and at the Paris Conservatory of Music. Bolcom received his doctorate from Stanford University in 1964. In the early sixties his serious compositions reflected the influence of Stockhausen, Berio, and Boulez, while at the same time he was writing theater music, most notably the 1961 off-Broadway hit The Red Eye of Love and his 1962 Dynamite Tonite, written with Arnold Weinstein, which received an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award. The late sixties saw a shift in his focus to ragtime and American music. He composed and performed rags throughout the country, meeting mezzo-soprano Joan Morris, who shared his interest in the American vernacular, in 1972.

Joan Morris, born in Portland, Oregon in 1943, began voice study at the age of 19. She attended Gonzaga University in Spokane prior to studies at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York on an ABC scholarship. There she studied with Clifford Jackson and Federica Schmitz-Svevo. As a performer, she toured for two years with the Whit/Lo Singers, starred Off-Broadway in The Drunkard, and performed with harpist Jay Miller. Following her meeting with Bolcom in 1972, the two began giving concerts of American song throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. Bolcom and Morris were married in 1975.

As champions of the American popular vocal literature, Bolcom and Morris perform songs from the late 19th century through the 1920s and 1930s, as well as cabaret songs written by Bolcom and poet-lyricist Arnold Weinstein. They have performed in Istanbul, Cairo, Moscow, and London, as well as notable venues throughout the United States, and have appeared on several television programs. Since his collaboration with Morris, Bolcom has continued to compose a vast repertoire of symphonies, concertos, operas, chamber music, songs, choral music and piano compositions, including the score to John Tuturro's film Illuminata and the music for Arthur Miller's play, Broken Glass . Compositions from every stage of Bolcom's career have earned him numerous honors, including awards from BMI, two Guggenheims, several Rockefeller Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts awards and grants, and two Koussevitsky Foundation Awards. In 1988 he received a Pulitzer Prize for Music for his Twelve Etudes for Piano . Morris has performed in many of Bolcom's stage productions, including The Beggar's Opera and Casino Paradise, and as a soloist in Bolcom's premiers of Songs of Innocence and of Experience and his Fourth Symphony, which was recorded in 1988 and which received two Grammy nominations.

Together, Bolcom and Morris have recorded twenty albums. The first, After the Ball, resulted in a Grammy nomination for Morris for best vocal soloist performance on a classical album. Other discs include collections of cabaret songs, and the songs of Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Berlin, Rodgers and Hart, and Kern, as well as the songs of Vincent Youmans.

Bolcom has taught composition at the University of Michigan School of Music since 1973, and has been a full professor since 1981. In 1977 he received the Henry Russel award, the highest academic prize given by the University. In the fall of 1994 the University named him the Ross Lee Finney Distinguished University Professor of Music. He has also received the Michigan Council for the Arts Award from the State of Michigan, and Honorary Doctor of Music Degrees from the San Francisco Conservatory and Albion College. Morris has taught courses in voice and musical theater with the University since 1981.

From the guide to the William Bolcom and Joan Morris papers, 1960-2010, (Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan)


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  • Indidental music--Scores
  • Vocal quartets, Unaccompanied
  • Mezzo-sopranos
  • Variations (Violin and piano)--Scores
  • Choruses, Secular (Mixed voices, 4 parts)
  • Music--Manuscripts--Facsimiles
  • Quintets (Piano, clarinet, flute, violin, violoncello--Scores
  • Pianists
  • Composers--United States
  • Mezzo-sopranos--United States
  • Music--Performance
  • Sonatas (Pianos (2))--Scores
  • Concertos (Flute)--Scores
  • Sonatas (Violin and piano)--Scores and parts
  • Opera--Scores
  • Aleatory music
  • Quartets (Piano, clarinet, violin, violoncello)--Scores
  • Piano music
  • Jazz--Scores
  • Violin and piano music--Scores and parts
  • Pianists--United States
  • Composers


not available for this record


  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)