Jazz Great Billy Childs to Work with Conservatory Students in Fall, Spring Residencies

October 23, 2017

By Erich Burnett

Portrait of Billy Childs
Photo credit: Courtesy of Billy Childs

Grammy Award-winning pianist and composer will lead a public master class October 25.

Multi-genre pianist and composer Billy Childs will begin a residency and collaboration with Oberlin Conservatory students that includes a series of concerts, public master classes, and closer work with students in several classroom sessions.

Childs’ first visit takes place on campus in October. He will return to Oberlin in April 2018 for the second part of his residency, which will include three performances by student ensembles, each of them playing works composed by Childs.

The residency came about through Professor of Composition Stephen Hartke, who met Childs while serving on the faculty of Childs’ alma mater, the University of Southern California.

“I was so impressed by him in every way—especially his extraordinary musicianship,” says Hartke, who joined the Oberlin faculty in 2015. “When I came to Oberlin, I knew I wanted to have him come to work with our students to share his broad vision of the many things music can say and do. There are so many inspiring sides to Billy’s activities in jazz and concert music.”

Shortly after arriving in Oberlin, Hartke began collaborating with Bobby Ferrazza, director of the Division of Jazz Studies, to design a Childs residency that would benefit both jazz and classical students.

During Childs’ October visit, he will lead a public master class for jazz piano students in the Kohl Building’s Clonick Hall at 9:15 p.m. Wednesday, October 25. His visit also includes classroom sessions and private lessons with jazz and classical composition students, coachings with Performance & Improvisation ensembles, and auditions for a jazz chamber music ensemble that will work with Childs and perform in the spring.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Childs was a star in area clubs by the time he graduated from USC, earning gigs alongside Freddie Hubbard, J.J. Johnson, Joe Henderson, and Wynton Marsalis. Influenced throughout his life by jazz, classical, and popular music, Childs has also met with great success as a composer, securing commissions from Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Kronos Quartet, and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, among other ensembles. He has won four Grammy Awards and been nominated 13 times. He has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Composers Grant from Chamber Music America, of which he is the current board president—the first jazz musician to hold the position.

Childs’ April return will include additional collaborations with students and a trio of performances of his works: the April 10 Oberlin Sinfonietta concert features Four Portraits for Violin (2017); on April 13 a student jazz chamber ensemble will perform his Grammy-winning Into the Light; and on April 14 the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra, Musical Union, and College Choir will combine for his 2005 large-scale cantata The Voices of Angels.

For more information, visit the events calendar.

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