Home » Jazz Musicians » Bill Banfield

Bill Banfield

In the past 25+ years, Bill Banfield has produced a body of productive music/ arts scholarship activities, books, compositions, recordings, establishing an active teaching, student and music/ lecture programming development, professional service and creative work, that contributes to contemporary arts leadership.

Banfield was appointed in 2019 as a research associate with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (CFCH), one of the Smithsonian’s 12 research and cultural centers. His work focuses on what he identifies as cultural through-lines, delineating the ways in which contemporary artistry and new works harken back and hold onto critical cultural linkages to understand.

Having served three times as a Pulitzer Prize judge in American music (2010, 2016, 2020), Banfield is an award winning composer whose symphonies, operas, chamber works have been performed and recorded by major symphonies across the country. Few have a wider, performed professional composing output, that has had public concert performances, reviews, radio, recordings of some 12 symphonies, 7 opera, 9 concerti, chamber, jazz and popular forms. This alone making Banfield one of the most performed, recorded composers of his generation. Banfield has been a national public radio show host having served as arts and culture correspondent for The Tavis Smiley Show. In 2010, he was hired by Quincy Jones to write a national music curriculum and book for schools learning about American popular music culture.

Dr. Cornel West has called him," one of the last grand Renaissance men in our time..a towering artist, exemplary educator, rigorous scholar, courageous freedom fighter..", and Henry Louis Gates wrote of him, “...Bill Banfield is one of the most original voices on the scene today.. he tunes us in to the conversation happening worldwide between the notes of contemporary musical culture.."

Banfield’s works have been commissioned, performed and recorded by orchestras including; the National, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Dallas, Akron, Detroit, New York Virtuoso, Grand Rapids, Akron, Richmond, Toledo, Savannah, Chicago Symphonia, Indianapolis, Sphinx, Sacramento, San Diego symphonies and the Havana Camerata of Cuba. In 2012, his symphony 10 was commissioned, premiered by the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center with Sweet Honey in the Rock, and his symphony 11 was performed, recorded in Switzerland with the Evoca/ECJ symphony and chorus.

His works as a composer and performing- recording jazz artist are carried on Atlantic, TelArc, CollinsClassics (London), Centaur, Albany/Visionary recordings and Innova records. His music has been performed and/or recorded by; George Duke, Patrice Rushen, Don Byron, Leon Bates, Christian Scott, Najee, Ron Carter, Delfeayo Marsalis, Greg Osby, Teri Lynn Carrington, Oliver Lake, Regina Carter, Rachel Z, Jon Faddis, Marcus Belgrave, Billy Childs, Nnenna Freelon, Alphonso Johnson, Ndugu Chancelor, and Nelson Rangel.


Album Review

Bill Banfield and the B-Magic Orchestra: Jazz Chamber Works

Read "Jazz Chamber Works" reviewed by Jack Bowers

Bill Banfield marshals his compositional ideas from a number of sources including Jazz, hip–hop, blues, soul and other contemporary modes of expression. He wrote the first three selections on Jazz Chamber Works, two of which (“Her Embrace,” “Bill’s Blue”) work fairly well, in spite of a recording venue that sharpens and amplifies orchestral and individual timbres to near headache–inducing scope. The rest of the concert program at St. Paul, MN’s Landmark Center is more familiar, consisting of Rodgers and Hart’s ...

Read more articles





Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.