The composer/pianist William Bolcom was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1938. He began private composition studies at age 11 with John Verrall and piano lessons with Berthe Poncy Jacobson at the University of Washington. During this time he performed extensively in the Northwest and Seattle areas.
After he earned his B.A. from Washington University in 1958, he studied with Darius Milhaud at Mills College in California, and with Milhaud and Messiaen at the Paris Conservatoire de Musique in France. He returned to America to hold various university teaching positions and to develop his own interpretation of ragtime.
He joined the teaching staff of the University of Michigan in 1973. After earlier use of serialism, he developed his own particular musical idiom, influenced in good part by his interest in and performance of popular music-hall and parlor songs. His work is summarized in his monumental setting of William Blake's "Songs of Innocence and of Experience," written between 1956 and 1981.
William Bolcom, recipient of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Music, has received commissions from the Vienna Philharmonic (Salzburg Mozarteum), Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Berlin Domaine Musical, Saarlandischer Rundfunk, American Composers Orchestra, Saint Louis, National, Pacific and Boston Symphonies, The MET Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Mendelssohn Quartet, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman, mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, and many others.