Born: March 8, 1957 Primary Instrument: Piano
Billy Childs was born in Los Angeles. Having demonstrated an aptitude for piano as early as age six, Childs developed rapidly, and at age sixteen entered the Community School of the Performing Arts, a preparatory music program sponsored by the University of Southern California, studying theory with Marienne Uszler and piano with John Weisenfluh. In 1975, he entered USC as a composition major, graduating four years later with a bachelor of music in composition under the tutelage of Robert Linn.
Since then Mr. Childs has received a number of orchestral commissions, including: Tone Poem for Holly (1993) and Fanfare for the United Races of America (1994), each commissioned and premiered by Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic; The Distant Land (1995) by the Akron Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Alan Balter; Music for String Orchestra (1989) for the Plymouth Music Series, conducted by Phillip Brunelle; and Concerto for Percussion and Concert Band (1986) by the North Texas State Wind Orchestra, conducted by Eugene Corporan. His cantata, Just Like Job, also commissioned by the the Akron Symphony Orchestra, had its world premiere on March 15, 1997. Shortly after the completion of Just Like Job, Childs then commenced work on A Day in the Forest of Dreams written for woodwind quintet and piano and commisioned by the Dorian Wind Quintet. The work was premiered in September, 1997 at Merkin Hall in New York city, and was recorded in spring of 1998. In early 2004, Childs completed “For Suzanne” a commissioned composition for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which was premiered by Childs, the L. A. Philharmonic, and Dianne Reeves, on January 24, 2004 in the newly constructed Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry. In October 2004 Childs completed “The Fierce Urgency Of Now”, a musical setting of various texts by Dr. Martin Luther King. It was performed by Childs, Wynton Marsalis, and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra as part of the inaugural concert series for the new Jazz At Lincoln Center facility. On April 24, 2005, Childs’ cantata for the Los Angeles Master Chorale entitled “The Voices Of Angels” was premiered at Walt Disney concert hall. After the performance, Childs, along with soloist, Luciana Souza and conductor, Grant Gershon received a ten minute standing ovation and three curtain calls.
Childs’ solo jazz recording career began in 1988, when he released Take For Example, This..., the first of four critically acclaimed albums on the Windham Hill Jazz label. He followed that album with Twilight Is Upon Us (1989), His April Touch (1992), and Portrait Of A Player (1993). A long friendship with Chick Corea resulted in Chick’s asking Billy to join his new (at the time) label, Stretch Records, upon Childs’ departure from Windham Hill Jazz. His next album, I’ve Known Rivers on Stretch/GRP (now Stretch/Concord) was released in 1995. Childs then followed with The Child Within, released on the Shanachie record label in 1996. In two years (1996 & 1997), Childs was nominated three times for a Grammy award; twice for “Best Instrumental Composition” (1996 - “The Starry Night” from “I’ve Known Rivers” and 1997 - “Aaron’s Song” from “The Child Within” ) and once for “Best Performance by a Jazz Group” (1997 - “The Child Within”). In 2002, Childs received a fourth Grammy nomination in the category of “Best Arrangment Accompanying a Vocalist” for his arrangement of “Fascinating Rhythm” on “The Calling - Celebrating Sarah Vaughn” (Dianne Reeves). Childs’ Jazz-Chamber Ensemble was awarded a sizeable grant by Chamber Music America to perform in a venue of his choosing. Lyric (2005), recorded with that group, was nominated for three Grammys in 2006: best instrumental composition (Into The Light), best instrumental arrangement (Scarborough Faire), and best jazz CD (Lyric). Childs won two Grammys that year; one for best instrumental composition (Into The Light) and another for best arrangement accompanying a vocalist (his fourth nomination that year). In all, Childs has received eight Grammy nominations, winning the award twice.
Other notable accomplishments include having been commisioned twice by the Monterey Jazz Festival: once to write an extended piano concerto (Concerto for Piano & Jazz Chamber Orchestra - 1994) and also to arrange a set of original compositions for Bobby Hutcherson (1998). In the fall of 2000, Childs arranged, orchestrated, and conducted the Dianne Reeves CD, “The Calling: Celebrating Sarah Vaughn”. He has also performed with his own trio in Carnegie Hall.
Currently, Mr. Childs is scheduled to work on a piece for The American Brass Quintet, The Imani Woodwind Quintet, The Jazz Chamber Ensemble with The Ying String Quartet, and another piece for the Los Angeles Master Chorale.