The album SPARKS VOL. 2 couldn’t be more aptly named, as bows bend and sparks fly in this vibrant collection of pieces for string orchestra. Bound to please modernists and traditionalists alike, this eclectic collection features Recollected Dances, a suite of short, interconnected dances that devotes an extended soli melody to the contrabass section of the string orchestra.

Today, William is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to learn about his affection for his residence in Seattle, and a whimsical musical mishap while performing with a choir.

Who was your first favorite artist(s) growing up?

To my immense embarrassment, Elvis Presley.

When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?

I was an artist as a child already — all children are. But it became apparent that it would be my career path by about the age of 15. There wasn’t a particular moment of discovery, rather it was a matter of accepting my destiny.

What was your most unusual performance, or the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?

After I graduated college, I worked as a freelance musician in Chicago doing all sorts of odd jobs, but there’s one gig I’ll never forget. I was hired at the very last minute to fill out the tenor section for a community chorus. We were performing a selection from one of David Del Tredici’s many “Alice” operas — I’d be hard pressed to tell you which one.

During the performance, I accidentally mis-sang a word. Perhaps it was a Freudian slip, but without going into detail, I’ll just say that my replacement word gave the sentence a rather different, and bawdy new meaning, and while I was blushing with embarrassment, I was also hemorrhaging laughter internally. I only just managed to maintain my composure, but I couldn’t sing the rest of the piece.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Vegan junk food. The progress that’s been made in fake chicken sandwiches over the past few years is staggering.

If you could make a living at any job in the world, what would that job be?

Composing and conducting — which, happily, I do!

If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

Similarly, I find myself in a happy situation living and working where I do, Seattle WA, a place that offers me tremendous opportunity and creative stimulation. I can’t see myself moving anywhere else permanently, but at some point I would like to take an extended sabbatical to live in Berlin. The artistic life of that city — particularly with regard to classical music — is simply unparalleled.

If you could instantly have expertise performing one instrument, what instrument would that be?

The bass, because it’s the most versatile instrument. Every kind of music needs a bass — classical, rock, country, bluegrass, pop, you name it.

What was your favorite musical moment on the album?

There are some incredibly evocative moments in Dave Dexter’s piece Hiraeth, which leads off the album. His use of the string orchestra is masterful, and his music is so evocative. He creates incredibly moody textures enriched with noir harmonies.

What does this album mean to you personally?

It means a great deal to be included in the company of such talented colleagues. It’s amazing to hear just how many approaches there are to writing for the string orchestra, and the amount of creativity that shines through on this album is astonishing.

It’s also a great delight to hear my music performed by such august musicians as the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra. I’ve collaborated with this orchestra before and I love their dark, mitteleuropäisch sound. It’s an orchestra that is keeping alive a tradition that has been lost in all but a few places.

Is there a specific feeling that you would like communicated to audiences in this work?

Recollected Dances is a piece about youth — its exuberance, its naïvety, its rowdiness, even its awkwardness. We can never relive our youth, thank goodness, but I think it’s worth recollecting and reconnecting with it through art.

Explore William’s Latest Release

SPARKS VOL II - album cover


SPARKS VOL. II is available now from Navona Records. Click here to visit the catalog page and explore this album.

  • William White

    William White is a conductor, composer, teacher, writer, and performer based in Seattle, WA. Equally known for his original music as for his bold interpretations, White is an innovative programmer and conscientious leader in the musical community. White currently serves as music director of Orchestra Seattle and the Seattle Chamber Singers, a unique performing ensemble comprised of a chorus and orchestra that concertize as one.