Boston, MA — Composer and pianist Billy Childs will be joining Berklee College of Music’s Harmony and Jazz Composition Department as the inaugural Ken Pullig Visiting Scholar in Jazz Studies beginning September 2019 through May 2020.
Childs is the first musician to be invited to hold the position established in honor of the former chair of Berklee’s Jazz Composition Department, Ken Pullig, who retired in 2012 after leading the department for more than 30 years.
Assistant chair Tom Hojnacki says, “We’re thrilled to have Billy Childs join our community this fall. He is a master musician whose work transcends stylistic boundaries. Our students will surely benefit from his perspective as one of the foremost composer/arranger/pianists currently in the field. Having Billy on campus regularly for the entire academic year will bring an electric energy to an already dynamic program!”
A native of Los Angeles, Billy Childs grew up immersed in jazz, classical, and popular music influences. By the age of six, he was giving public performances as a pianist, and at 16 he was admitted to the Community School of the Performing Arts, which was sponsored by the University of Southern California (USC). He later attended and graduated from USC, earning a Bachelor of Music degree in Composition.
Discovered by trumpet legend Freddie Hubbard, Childs has emerged as one of the foremost American composers of his era since Aaron Copland. Like Copland, he has successfully married the musical products of his heritage with the Western neoclassical traditions of the 20th century in a powerful symbiosis of style, range, and dynamism.
Over the course of his career, Childs has earned 16 Grammy nominations and won five Grammys, with his most recent one in 2017, in the category of Best Jazz Instrumental Album, for his album Rebirth. The pianist/composer has collaborated with a variety of musicians including Yo-Yo Ma, Gladys Knight, Sting, Claudia Acuña, Chick Corea, Renée Fleming, Wynton Marsalis, and numerous others.
As a visiting scholar, Childs will be in residence for one week each month throughout the academic year and will be working with advanced Jazz Composition students, offering his perspective on their work. In addition, he’ll be coaching a student ensemble, working with faculty, and offering master classes open to the entire Berklee community.
The Harmony and Jazz Composition Department at Berklee, under the leadership of chair George W. Russell Jr. and assistant chair Tom Hojnacki, offers three programs: core music studies in Harmony for all students, a minor in the Theory of Jazz and Popular Song and a major in Jazz Composition. The Department’s philosophy is to understand and learn from the past, evolve the present, and create the future. That philosophy is put into practice through Berklee’s tradition of teaching the fundamental techniques and concepts of the musical language of American popular song and jazz.