The University Record, September 23, 1998
William Albright, professor of music and chair of the Department of Composition, passed away unexpectedly at his home in Ann Arbor on Sept. 17. He was 53.
Born in 1944 in Gary, Ind., he was a composition student primarily of Ross Lee Finney and George Rochberg. As a composer and performer, he concertized throughout Europe, Canada and the United States.
Having premiered more than 30 new American and European works, his concert specialty was recent music for organ. Although he had composed music for practically every instrumental and vocal medium, he was primarily known for his keyboard works.
“Professor Albright excelled not only as a composer, but also as a noted performer on both the piano and organ,” said Paul C. Boylan, dean of the School of Music. “He was a beloved teacher and mentor to a large number of composers who graduated from Michigan. His leadership of our composition program and his important role in the School of Music will be greatly missed.”
Colleague Leslie Basset, professor emeritus of music, said of Albright: “He was a wonderfully gifted, creative and inventive composer, and a marvelous teacher who cared about teaching and put his whole heart into it.”
William Bolcom stated, “William Albright was a composer of genius who was one of the 20th century’s greatest organists. He has died young, but his music will be played for many, many years to come. I am grateful to have been his friend.” Bolcom is the Ross Lee Finney Distinguished University Professor in Music Composition.
Albright received numerous commissions and awards, including the Queen Marie-José
Prize, an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, two Fulbright and two Guggenheim fellowships, the Symphonic Composition Award of Niagara University, two National Endowment for the Arts grants, two Koussevitzky Competition Awards, an award from the Fromm Music Foundation of Harvard University and, most recently, an America Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers Award. The University recognized him with a Distinguished Service Award, a Faculty recognition Award and a Faculty Fellowship Enhancement Award.
Albright was composer-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome in 1979. He received the Composer of the Year Award from the American Guild of Organists in 1993 and the Roger Wagner Center for Choral Studies Competition in 1995.
His works have been performed at International Society for Contemporary Music Festivals and by major symphony orchestras, including those of Syracuse, Detroit and Lansing, as well as the Budapest Philharmonic, the Austrian Radio Orchestra, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Bergen Symphony, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Kiev Philharmonic and the American Composers Orchestra.
Albright’s organ works are available on the CRI, Albany, Gothic, Arkay, Titanic and Nonesuch labels. His piano performances of the music of James P. Johnson, Albright’s own rag compositions, and the complete piano music of Scott Joplin have been recorded for Music Masters/Musical Heritage Society.
Albright is survived by his son, John, of Ypsilanti; his daughter, Elizabeth, of New York City; and two brothers, John and Richard.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Sept. 28 at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, 1917 Washtenaw Ave.
Memorial contributions may be made to the School of Music.
Submitted by the School of Music
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