Bill McGlaughlin

William "Bill" McGlaughlin (born October 3, 1943) is an American composer, conductor, music educator, and Peabody Award-winning classical music radio host. He is the host and music director of the public radio programs Exploring Music and Saint Paul Sunday.

Bill McGlaughlin
Birth nameWilliam McGlaughlin
Born (1943-10-03) October 3, 1943
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Occupation(s)radio host, music educator, musicologist, composer, conductor
Years active1967–present
Associated actsExploring Music
Saint Paul Sunday
Center Stage from Wolf Trap
Concerts from the Library of Congress
Kansas City Symphony
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra

A nationally noted radio commentator since 1981, Bill McGlaughlin is known for his cheerful, open, and down-to-earth personality on classical music radio.[1] Beyond his career as a broadcaster and music educator, McGlaughlin has also spent a decade as a professional orchestral musician, over three decades as a conductor, and a decade as a successful composer. He views the more recent, radio broadcast aspect of his musical career as outreach — as a way to keep classical music from becoming an increasingly marginalized art form, with ever-smaller and older audiences.[2]

Early life

McGlaughlin was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and his unusual accent stems from his Philadelphia childhood and the influence of his Scottish-American grandfather, with whom he lived during his early childhood and late teens. Bill absorbed the music of opera at a very young age, as his draftsman father listened while in his at-home workshop. When Bill was 6, his father gave him a harmonica, and together they enjoyed playing their favorite opera melodies by ear.[3][4] His father also had many instrumental classical albums, which Bill enjoyed listening to in his own bedroom.[5] Bill's mother, a high-school English teacher, was also a music lover.[4][6]

At the age of 14, McGlaughlin received his first piano lesson, quite by accident — his younger brother had been taking a series of pre-paid piano lessons but abruptly quit, so Bill was given the remainder. By his second lesson, he knew he wanted to be a professional musician, and began practicing eight hours a day.[7]

Musical career


In high school, McGlaughlin took up the trombone, which he further studied in college, obtaining his Bachelor of Music degree from Philadelphia's Temple University in 1967.

Upon graduation in 1967 he became Assistant Principal Trombonist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, a position he held through 1968. From 1969 to 1975 he was Co-Principal Trombonist of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

In addition, during these years in Pennsylvania, McGlaughlin performed in groups such as the Pittsburgh Symphony Players, which he founded in 1973,[8][9] the Penn Contemporary Players, and the Philadelphia Composers Forum. He also performed as trombonist during many of his 1975–1982 years with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.[10]


Orchestral performance sparked McGlaughlin's interest in conducting — an interest which was encouraged by Pittsburgh Symphony's William Steinberg. In 1969 he completed a Master of Music degree in conducting at Temple University, studying under Robert Page; and in addition he received private instruction and tutelage from William R. Smith, Associate Conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and Max Rudolf.[10][11][12] McGlaughlin also became assistant conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Chamber Orchestra during his period with the Pittsburgh Symphony.[13][14]

During his years as a trombonist after his master's degree, he brought a full orchestral score to rehearsals, taking careful notes on how good and poor conductors handled difficult passages.[7] In 1973, he asked Georg Solti whether he should pursue a conducting career; Solti encouraged him, but insisted he needed an orchestra to practice with. McGlaughlin formed three orchestras in Pittsburgh that year — an orchestra of college students, the Pittsburgh Camerata, and the Upper Partials Chamber Players. His practice paid off: In 1975, he was awarded the Exxon-Arts Conducting Endowment, and an assistant conductorship at the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.[15]

This led to a series of conducting positions:

During his 12-year tenure with the Kansas City Symphony, McGlaughlin greatly expanded the orchestra's repertoire, commissioned many new works, recorded albums,[16] made two nationwide television broadcasts, including a Christmas special with the King's Singers,[17][18] greatly strengthened the orchestra's reputation, and brought it to a state of "unparalleled artistic and financial success."[19][20] In addition, he received five ASCAP Adventurous Programming Awards for his continued performing of contemporary music, and for aiding Kansas City Symphony audiences in understanding the composers' intentions in these works.[21]

McGlaughlin has also continuously had numerous guest conducting engagements, from a great variety of orchestras around the U.S.[22][23]


McGlaughlin was early on a champion of living composers and new music, dating back to his Pennsylvania days and his involvement with groups such as the Penn Contemporary Players and the Philadelphia Composers Forum. McGlaughlin himself founded the Pittsburgh Camerata (1973),[9] which focused on contemporary music, and he was a steady proponent of living composers' works in Kansas City as well. Eventually, this championing became a desire to compose on his own.[21]

In 1998, he left his conducting position and moved to New York City to concentrate on composing. Prompted by the death of a friend who was a Kansas City pianist and composer, McGlaughlin's first major work was Three Dreams and a Question: Choral Songs on e.e. cummings — which he debuted with the Kansas City Symphony on April 28, 1998, to an enthusiastic audience and press.[10] Some of the other 20 works he created in his first decade of composing, most of them commissioned, include: Aaron's Horizons (a tribute to colleague Aaron Copland); Echoes, for horn trio; Angelus, a 9/11 remembrance; Three Pieces for Wind Trio; Bagatelles, for saxophone quartet; The Heart's Light: An Essay for Orchestra; Three by Six, for chamber ensemble; and The Bells of St. Ferdinand, for orchestra.

For a millennial celebration, he was chosen from a field of 350 composers to write a major new work for Continental Harmony, a nationwide cultural initiative commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Composers Forum. The composition, Walt Whitman's Dream, premiered in July 2000, and celebrated the new millennium with a combined chorus of nearly 800 singers from around the world, accompanied by orchestra.[24][25][26]

On December 15, 2005, the national two-hour daily NPR classical music radio program Performance Today announced that out of all of the music aired that week, McGlaughlin's new composition Remembering Icarus garnered the most, and the most heartfelt, listener response.[27] The piece has been re-broadcast on radio three times.[26]

Discussing his own music, McGlaughlin describes his compositional style as more intuitive than intellectual,[28] and says that he does not shun tonality: "I think when composers turn completely away from tonality, they lose a big part of storytelling."[29] Some of his work incorporates or references elements of jazz — for instance Bela's Bounce, an homage to Béla Bartók and Charlie Parker.[21][29]

Radio career

Saint Paul Sunday

In the late 1970s, during his conducting stint in Saint Paul, Minnesota, McGlaughlin often spoke to the audience before a performance, informally explaining the program and what to listen for. Garrison Keillor heard him, and invited him to fill in occasionally as host of his daily morning radio show on Minnesota Public Radio (MPR).[30] MPR producer Tom Voegeli came up with the idea for a new show: Saint Paul Sunday Morning, with McGlaughlin as host. MPR had just received a public radio communications satellite uplink, as well as seed money to develop a few pilot shows for national distribution. Voegeli wanted a program which would present world-class musicians, in an informal live setting in MPR's new state-of-the-art studio, to a national audience. Voegeli also wanted McGlaughlin to sound like himself — a musician — rather than like a broadcaster, and to share his own intimate, animated enthusiasm with listeners.[31][32]

The show, retitled Saint Paul Sunday, debuted locally in 1980, and went national via syndication in 1981. The weekly one-hour show, which aired through 2012, featured live in-studio performances by and interviews with the world's top classical musicians, both soloists and ensembles. It was America's most widely listened to weekly classical music program produced by public radio, and aired on approximately 200 stations nationwide.[33] The show, with McGlaughlin as host and music director since its inception, was awarded the Peabody Award in 1995.

McGlaughlin's enthusiasm for the show and the music was evident: "If I had been able to imagine Saint Paul Sunday as a kid," he says, "I think I’d have been in ecstasy at the idea of having the whole wide world of music to run around in, and best of everything, to be able to bring friends along."[20]

Exploring Music

In 2002, Steve Robinson, Vice President of WFMT Radio Network, approached McGlaughlin to host a daily radio show, which would showcase and explicate great works of classical music.[34] Robinson notes, "As far as I'm concerned, no one can top Bill in the way he conveys his passion for music on the radio."[35] The show, Exploring Music, debuted nationally in 2003, and has proved very popular with audiences of all ages and levels of expertise.[35][36][37] The program, which explores a single classical music theme each week in one-hour daily episodes, has been praised for the enthusiasm and relatability with which it brings classical music appreciation to a large audience,[38] and as of 2008 has over 500,000 listeners.[39][40]

Exploring Music garnered McGlaughlin, as its host and music director, the Lifetime Achievement Award from Fine Arts Radio International in 2004, "because he has taken up the music education baton implicitly passed to him by the late Karl Haas, whose Adventures in Good Music has metamorphized into Exploring Music, with an ear tuned to the evolving trends of the 21st-century classical audience." Fine Arts Radio International concluded by saying, "Exploring Music, with its weekly thematic concept, provides the classical radio listener with both in-depth education and compelling radio listening, a balance that is rarely achieved."[41] In 2011, the Association of Music Personnel in Public Radio presented him with the AMPPR Lifetime Achievement Award, citing "McGlaughlin's incredibly knowledgeable but always inviting and warm presence with which he guides listeners to discover the heart, soul and humor of the music he plays."[42]

Additional media appearances

McGlaughlin has been the co-host of the nationally syndicated radio series Center Stage from Wolf Trap since its inception in 1999. He is also the host, since 2007, of the newly relaunched nationally syndicated radio series Concerts from the Library of Congress.[43]

In addition to these and to Saint Paul Sunday and Exploring Music, since 1986 he has also hosted, and occasionally conducted, a number of radio and television programs on NPR, PRI, PBS, and the BBC, and on local NPR affiliates.[44] He also lectures at and hosts live concerts and concert series and other musical events around the country.[26][45]

Drawing upon his expertise as a conductor and his abilities as a music commentator, McGlaughlin contributed one of the ten chapters in the 2008 book, Leonard Bernstein: American Original.[46] Editor Barbara Haws describes McGlaughlin's chapter, "On the Podium: Intellect and Energy," in her introduction to the book:

Bernstein's passion on the podium is perhaps the most indelible image he has left us. By evaluating Bernstein's marked conducting scores in the Philharmonic Archives and analyzing his televised performances, conductor, composer, and radio personality Bill McGlaughlin brings together the ephemeral with the workaday to understand better Bernstein's hold over the popular imagination and his remarkable rapport with musicians. Melding the flamboyant public display with the private meticulousness seen in the scores provides new insights, and confirms long-held assumptions about what Bernstein was hoping to achieve.[47]

Awards and honors

Personal life

McGlaughlin lives in New York City with his longtime partner, five-time Grammy-nominated jazz singer Karrin Allyson. The couple met in the early 1990s in Kansas City.[52] He has co-produced and assisted on most of Allyson's CDs, and also often accompanies her on the road when she is touring. He continues to compose, and continues to do guest conducting, concert hosting and lecturing, and other classical-music outreach around the country. He has two grown children from a former marriage.[53]



  1. Phillips, Lisa. Public Radio: Behind the Voices. Vanguard Press, 2006. p. 313.
  2. Phillips, Lisa. Public Radio: Behind the Voices. Vanguard Press, 2006. p. 317.
  3. Phillips, 2006. pp. 314–315.
  4. Family of origin Archived 2011-07-08 at the Wayback Machine: Mother: Catharine Hogan McGlaughlin; father: William McGlaughlin, Sr.; Scottish grandfather: John Hogan. Bill is the oldest of six siblings.
  5. Exploring Music, episode April 21, 2008, "Tchaikovsky, Part II."
  6. "Music is to me, my sister, and was to my mother, a great human need. Even in these difficult times there are spiritual needs, and music is one of them. It's not a question of do we or don't we — we have to have quality music in Kansas City." Bill McGlaughlin, quoted in: Schondelmeyer, Brent. Building a First Class Bank: The Story of United Missouri Bank. United Missouri Bancshares, 1986. p. 119.
  7. Strauss, Elaine. "Exploring & Celebrating the Uncommon Music". U.S. 1. June 3, 2009.
  8. Jaques Cattell Press, ed. Who's Who in American Music: Classical. R. R. Bowker, 1983. p. 276
  9. Randel, Don Michael, ed. The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music. Harvard University Press, 1996. p. 533
  10. "McGlaughlin resumé 2003". Archived from the original on 2011-07-07. Retrieved 2008-10-29.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  11. Cummings, David, ed. International Who's Who In Music and Musicians' Directory (in the Classical and Light Classical Fields). Routledge, 2000. p. 429
  12. Phillips, 2006. p. 316.
  13. Pan Pipes: Sigma Alpha Iota Quarterly, Volumes 81-82. Wayside Press, 1988. p. 12.
  14. Celebrate: The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. December 1979. p. 2.
  15. Crafts, Fred. "Playing Wasn't Enough for St. Paul Conductor". Eugene Register-Guard. September 22, 1980.
  16. Albums recorded under McGlaughlin's baton during his music directorship of the Kansas City Symphony include: Ghost Factory (compositions by Anthony Davis); American Voices; and Memento Bittersweet.
  17. William McGlaughlin and the Kansas City Symphony (1987): Television broadcast catalogued here
  18. The King's Singers` Holiday Special With the Kansas City Symphony (1988): Television broadcast listed here; video listed here Archived 2008-07-25 at the Wayback Machine
  19. "Kansas City Symphony: Music Director to Leave." DOS Orchestra 056. International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, May 24, 1996.
  20. "Bio – Saint Paul Sunday". Archived from the original on 2008-05-14. Retrieved 2008-10-29.
  21. "Bio – Subito Music". Archived from the original on 2008-05-27. Retrieved 2008-10-29.
  22. Guest conducting engagements include: Baltimore Symphony, Denver Symphony, Houston Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, National Symphony, New Orleans Symphony, Oregon Symphony, Pacific Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Opera Theatre St. Louis, American Music Theater Festival, and San Antonio Festival.
  23. Many of McGlaughlin's guest conducting engagements can also be viewed in the International Who's Who In Music and Musicians' Directory; and at"McGlaughlin resumé 2003". Archived from the original on 2011-07-07. Retrieved 2008-10-29.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link) . Additional conducting outreach includes guest conductor of the Platteville Chorale Summer Music Festival 1978–1988 Archived 2011-07-27 at the Wayback Machine, and the TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) Symphony Orchestra in 2003 Video on YouTube Video on YouTube Video on YouTube; and Music Director of the Minnesota Youth Symphonies 1980–1981. Archived 2008-07-05 at the Wayback Machine
  24. Bill McGlaughlin and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
  25. "International Choral Festival: History of the Festival". Archived from the original on 2004-08-03. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  26. Bio – American International Artists
  27. Mail: Performance Today, December 15, 2005.
  28. December 9, 2005 interview on Performance Today
  29. Phillips, 2006. p. 319.
  30. Bill McGlaughlin Interview Archived 2012-11-23 at the Wayback Machine. WCNY Blog. November 30, 2011.
  31. Uslan, Rachel. "It Wouldn't Be a Sunday Without 'Saint Paul'". Los Angeles Times, March 2, 2001. p. F-26
  32. Phillips, 2006. pp. 316–317.
  33. "Saint Paul Sunday site - Peabody Award". Archived from the original on 2008-05-14. Retrieved 2008-10-29.
  34. Manning, Bryant. "Bill’s Excellent Venture: Radio Host Brings Arias and Masses to the Masses. Time Out Chicago. Issue 175: Jul 3–9, 2008
  35. Burkholder, Steve."Chicago Classical Music Chat with Bill McGlaughlin". Archived from the original on 2007-03-14. Retrieved 2008-10-24. Chicago Classical Music. March 8, 2007
  36. Robinson, Steve. "Drawing Kids to Classical." Archived 2009-01-16 at the Wayback Machine Chicago Classical Music. May 30, 2006
  37. Robinson, Steve. "Look Around a Little — You’ll Find Plenty of Life in Classical Music Radio." Archived 2009-03-06 at the Wayback Machine Current. March 14, 2005
  38. von Rhein, John. "Classical Mission Brings Radio Host Out of the Studio." Chicago Tribune, July 4, 2008, p. 5: "Bill McGlaughlin's folksy but informed manner as host of the popular radio series Exploring Music has pulled thousands of listeners into the classical experience."
  39. von Rhein, John. "McGlaughlin to be 'Exploring Music' Under the Stars Here." Archived 2011-07-25 at the Wayback Machine Chicago Tribune, June 27, 2008; reprinted in Metromix Chicago.
  40. "Music Institute of Chicago 2008 Awards". Archived from the original on 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2008-10-24. Music Institute of Chicago 2008 Gala
  41. Fine Arts Radio International Awards: 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award
  42. "Bill McGlaughlin Receives Lifetime Achievement Award" Archived 2011-11-19 at the Wayback Machine. The Association of Music Personnel in Public Radio. May 30, 2011.
  43. "Concerts from the Library of Congress Radio Series To Launch on Nov. 5." News from the Library of Congress; October 25, 2007
  44. McGlaughlin's radio and television engagements through 2003 are listed on:"McGlaughlin resumé 2003". Archived from the original on 2011-07-07. Retrieved 2008-10-29.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link) . He has also contributed a number of features to Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts, including programs on Debussy Archived 2014-09-03 at the Wayback Machine (which also aired on the BBC ) and Stravinsky Archived 2014-09-03 at the Wayback Machine, and an interview with James Levine on the opera Wozzeck Archived 2014-09-03 at the Wayback Machine. McGlaughlin also co-hosted, with Joseph Horowitz, a two-hour radio special, The Orchestra: An American Specialty, in 2005.
  45. Other concert lectures include: , , .
  46. McGlaughlin, Bill. "On the Podium: Intellect and Energy." In Leonard Bernstein: American Original, edited by Burton Bernstein and Barbara Haws, pp. 157–172. HarperCollins, 2008.
  47. Haws, Barbara. Leonard Bernstein: American Original. HarperCollins, 2008. p. xiv.
  48. 23rd Annual ASCAP Deems Taylor Award Recipients
  49. About the Deems Taylor Awards
  50. "Peabody Awards 1995". Archived from the original on 2011-10-31. Retrieved 2012-02-20.
  51. Boyer College of Music and Dance Tribute Award: William McGlaughlin Archived 2011-06-04 at the Wayback Machine Boyer College of Music and Dance, Temple University
  52. Stoakes, Eric. "All That Jazz." Archived 2016-01-15 at the Wayback Machine University of Nebraska at Omaha Alumni Association Magazine. Spring 2001. p. 10
  53. Gaster, Adrian, ed. International Who's Who in Music and Musicians' Directory, Volume 8. Melrose Press, 1977. p. 531.





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