William Thomas McKinley (b. 1938) is a jazz pianist and prolific composer. By age 12, he was a member of the Musician’s Union as a pianist. He had numerous opportunities to study with other great composers: Aaron Copland, Gunther Schuller, Lukas Foss, and Mel Powell. As a student at Carnegie Institute of Technology and Yale, he met many of the musicians who now sponsor his music, such as Richard Stolzman, clarinetist. Responsible for the founding of the Master Musicians Collective, this business provides recording opportunities to contemporary composers. McKinley’s three composition periods to this point include a neo-classical style, serialism and atonality, and a more tonal style, such as can be seen in the Marimba Concerto. His contemporaries include John Corigliano and John Harbison. McKinley has received eight grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His compositions range from small ensembles to full orchestral works, including the Third Clarinet Concerto, Nonet for a quintet, and Thirteen Dances for Orchestra. Gil Rose, of BMOP, describes his music as “maximalist” instead of minimalist, with different layers of background and foreground happening at the same time, creating a new focus with each listening.


Consisting of fourteen short musical vignettes,  Marimba Concerto: “Childhood Memories” (2005) has titles reminiscent of childhood playtimes. This program music, beginning with its introduction in the first movement “Childsplay,” presents various play activities for all seasons. In movement V, “Lazy Summer Day,” it is easy to imagine a sweltering New England day, while lazily trying to keep cool at the park. Written for Nancy Zeltsman, longtime friend and marimbist, this piece showcases the virtuostic skill on the entire range of keys. The marimba rolls pulse and the sound breathes, while the orchestra punctuates the slow movements of the rhythm. In sections, there seems to be an echo of Copland present.  

This is the link to spotify:


I am comparing Joan Peabody Tower’s Petroushskates (1980) to Marimba Concerto: Childhood Memories. While “Lazy Summer Day” seems to move in slow motion with the gentle rolling on the marimba, Petroushskates begins with minimalist repetitions of sixteenth notes in the background. These are constant throughout the piece, whether on piano or other instrument. Tower’s sound is more reminiscent of Stravinsky, while McKinley’s movement has a thinner texture that swells and diminishes in a breath-like manner.

Petroushskates (Joan Tower) - Contemporary Enclave, James Ogburn, cond06:26

Petroushskates (Joan Tower) - Contemporary Enclave, James Ogburn, cond.-0


Not only was it cool seeing so much info on Prof. McKinley’s father, but also to see the connections between my daughter’s time in Boston and all the musicians so prominent there. BMOP and many of those musicians are definitely on my playlist now.

Works CitedEdit

Boston Modern Orchestra Project. “BMOP/Sound Releases William Thomas McKinley: R.A.P.” May 1, 2010.

Boston Modern Orchestra Project. “William Thomas McKinley.” 2010.

Boston Modern Orchestra Project. “William Thomas McKinley: Searching for Transcendence.” Fanfare, March 1, 2010.

IUMA (Internet Underground Music Archive) Collection. “IUMA: William Thomas McKinley.”

Sposato, Jeffrey S. "McKinley, William Thomas." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed May 2, 2014,

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