Born in Kensington PA, near Pittsburgh, William Thomas McKinley (December 9, 1938 – February 3, 2015) began playing piano at local jazz clubs when he was a boy, and, at the age of 12, undoubtedly became the youngest member of the American Federation of Musicians. He went on to perform, record, and compose for some of the great jazz artists such as Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, Eddie Gomez, Gary Burton, Rufus Reed, Dave Holland, and Billy Hart, among others. On the classical side, McKinley has earned numerous awards from such institutions as the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Koussevitzky Foundation, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and eight NEA grants, along with commissions from The London Symphony, The Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, the Fromm Foundation, and the Naumburg Foundation. He has composed over 300 works.
He was a longtime faculty member of The New England Conservatory, and previously taught at the University of Chicago. While teaching at NorthEastern University in the early 1990s, McKinley founded the MMC (Master Musicians Collective) label – a full service recording and production company which recorded primarily the works of modern American composers.
Passacaglia follows a modern model of its titular form. It has a somber theme, followed by 10 variations, and a lively finale.