Billy Childs Named Visiting Scholar at Berklee

By 
Colette Greenstein
June 7, 2019
Press release
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Billy Childs
Image courtesy of the artist

Composer and pianist Billy Childs will join Berklee's Harmony and Jazz Composition Department as the inaugural Ken Pullig Visiting Scholar in Jazz Studies during the 2019–2020 academic yearChilds is the first musician to be invited to hold the position, established in honor of Ken Pullig, a former chair of jazz composition, who retired in 2012 after leading the department for more than 30 years.

"We're thrilled to have Billy Childs join our community this fall. He is a master musician whose work transcends stylistic boundaries," says Tom Hojnacki, the department's assistant chair. "Our students will surely benefit from his perspective as one of the foremost composer/arranger/pianists currently in the field. Having Billy on campus regularly for the entire academic year will bring an electric energy to an already dynamic program."

As a visiting scholar, Childs will be in residence for one week each month throughout the academic year, working with advanced jazz composition students and offering his perspective on their work. In addition, he'll be coaching a student ensemble, working with faculty, and offering master classes open to the entire Berklee community.

Billy Childs

A native of Los Angeles, Childs grew up immersed in jazz, classical, and popular music influences. By age 6, he was giving public performances as a pianist, and at 16 he was admitted to the Community School of the Performing Arts (now the Colburn School), sponsored by the University of Southern California (USC). He later attended and graduated from USC, earning a Bachelor of Music degree in composition.

Discovered by jazz trumpet legend Freddie Hubbard, Childs is one of the foremost American composers of his era. Like Aaron Copland, he successfully married the musical products of his heritage with the Western neoclassical traditions of the 20th century in a powerful symbiosis of style, range, and dynamism.

Over the course of his career, Childs has earned five Grammy Awards and 16 nominations, most recently winning in the Best Jazz Instrumental Album category for 2017's Rebirth. The pianist and composer has collaborated with a variety of musicians, including Yo-Yo Ma, Gladys Knight, Sting, Claudia Acuña, Chick Corea, Renée Fleming, Wynton Marsalis, and numerous others.

About the Department

Berklee's Harmony and Jazz Composition Department, under the leadership of George W. Russell Jr., chair, and Tom Hojnacki, assistant chair, offers three programs: core music studies in harmony for all students, a minor in the theory of jazz and popular song, and a major in jazz composition. The department's philosophy is to understand and learn from the past, evolve the present, and create the future. That philosophy is put into practice through Berklee's tradition of teaching the fundamental techniques and concepts of the musical language of American popular song and jazz.