Before getting to the official bio and qualifications bit, I'll describe my music in informal terms. A conductor friend of mine told me not too long ago, "William, your music often takes us on a rather sad journey and never really brings us back." This description is both amusing and accurate: generally, I compose vocal and instrumental chamber music that expresses deep, unfulfillable longing with a lyrical sense that draws upon my experience as a singer of late Romantic song literature. This emphasis on pathos in melody is set atop and amidst a harmonic language that synthesizes other things I find interesting and moving: jazz, Brazilian music, and the coloristic approaches of Debussy and Messiaen. Some other influences that creep in from time to time are minimalism—of both the '70s-repetitive and silence-as-sound varieties—and the use of quarter-tones or other exceptionally small intervals. When I'm asked why I write music, my answer is simple: "Because no one else is writing exactly the music that I'm hearing."
Printable C.V. | Bio | Worklist (PDF format) Dr. William Kenlon (b. 1983), dually based in Washington D.C. and Boston, is a composer specializing in music for chamber, choral, and jazz ensembles. Described as "pointed and groovy" (New Music Box), Kenlon's music continues to garner praise for its "lyrical personality that is original and strong" (Boston Musical Intelligencer), and for its sophisticated tonal explorations: "solid without being dense, clear without being sparse, and ever-changing without being random" (ibid). Enjoying performances on both coasts and on both sides of the Atlantic—most frequently in New England, but also at other locations such as Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center—Kenlon has studied with composers from a variety of traditions and backgrounds, including John Hilliard, Jason Haney, Chuck Dotas, John McDonald, and Mark Edwards Wilson; he has also taken lessons with Forrest Pierce, Gabriela Lena Frank, Stacy Garrop, and Libby Larsen, among others. Kenlon has studied at McGill University and at the New England Conservatory, and holds the B.Mus. degree (magna cum laude) from James Madison University, the M.A. from Tufts University, and the D.M.A. from the University of Maryland, which he attended as a Flagship Fellow.
Among the ensembles that have read and/or performed Kenlon's music are the James Madison University Jazz Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra (Harrisonburg, VA); the Tufts Wind Ensemble, Jazz Orchestra, New Music Ensemble, and Symphony Orchestra (Boston); the QX Quartet (Worcester, MA); the East Coast Contemporary Ensemble (Boston); the Spektral Quartet (Chicago); and Ensemble Nouveau Classical (New York). He has received commissions from NotaRiotous (resident ensemble of the Boston Microtonal Society), the JMU Treble Chamber Choir, the Tufts Chamber Singers, and baritone In Dal Choi (Washington, DC), among others. Recordings of his music have been released commercially by flutist Elizabeth Erenberg and by the Six Degree Singers.
As a performer, William is a baritone; he divides his singing time between standard choral repertoire and brand new works for various vocal forces. In the latter category, he has performed many of his own song cycles and has also premiered works by Meng Tian, Kevin Laba, Stefan Anderson, Sid Richardson, and Scott AuCoin. Education is also a vital part of his work as a musician; he has presented conference papers analyzing jazz improvisations, and has taught university and community courses in music theory and in jazz history. Another recent addition to his professional engagements has been adjudicating composition competitions, including those of Howard County Public Schools and the American Trombone Workshop. At the University of Maryland, he also served as Artistic Director of Tempo (the university's graduate student-led new music ensemble), as a member of the Arts & Humanities Graduate Advisory Board, the originator and inaugural leader of the UMD Composers' Colloquium, and as founding member and Vice President of the Eta Psi chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. Following a stint as Visiting Professor of Music at St. Mary's College of Maryland, he is currently a freelance composer and teacher.
Most recently, William is proud to be a co-founder and administrator of the District New Music Coalition, which promotes the performance and appreciation of contemporary music by connecting performers, composers, institutions, and audiences located in the Washington, DC metropolitan area through concerts, conferences, and active community-building.
(Image credit: SnoStudios Photography)