William (Bill) Banfield

An award-winning composer of many different styles of music and the Founding Director of Africana Studies at the Berklee College of Music, William Banfield has distinguished himself as one of the most successful contemporary composers of his generation.

Photo: William (Bill) Banfield, billbanfieldmusic.com

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William Banfield was born on March 24, 1961, in Detroit, Michigan. After finishing High School, Banfield went to the New England Conservatory for his Bachelors in Jazz studies. Once he graduated from NEC, he received his masters degree from the Boston University and his D.M.A from the University of Michigan. After receiving his D.M.A from Michigan, Banfield was appointed as the assistant professor of African American studies at Indiana University. After teaching at Indiana for five years, Banfield began teaching at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota where he was the Endowed Chair of Humanities, Professor of Music, Director of American Cultural Studies/Jazz, Popular, and World Music Studies. Eventually, Banfield landed his most recent position at the Berklee College of Music where he was a Professor and the Director of the African American Studies program. Banfield recently retired in 2020 from Berklee, but they named him the Founding Director of Africana Studies because of everything he did for the program. 

Banfield is a composer that doesn’t specialize in one style of music. Rather, throughout his career, he focused on celebrating Black/African American music through both Classical music and Jazz. Banfield has composed 12 symphonies, 9 concertos , 7 operas and many jazz, chamber and popular forms of music. Something that was always important to Bill was the celebration of classical music done and performed by Black/African American people. In 1988, Bill created an event at the University of Michigan called the Extensions on Tradition concert series. It’s goal was to perform works by African American Classical music composers and celebrate an artform that was never really associated or even thought to be a part of Black culture. While it isn’t done at the University of Michigan anymore, this event has been continued by the Indiana University in Bloomington for the past many years.

– Cooper Cromwell-Whitley

This profile was created in 2022 as part of The Savvy Singer, an EXCEL Lab course at the University of Michigan, School of Music, Theatre, and Dance and a collaboration with the Hampsong Foundation via the Classic Song Research Initiative.


Banfield, Bill. “Bill Banfield Music”. 2022. http://www.billbanfieldmusic.com/

Banfield, William. “The History Makers”. Nov, 17, 2018. https://www.thehistorymakers.org/biography/william-banfield

Harrison, Marian. “Archives of African American Music And Culture Liner Notes – Roots of Techno: Black DJ’s and the Detroit Scene.” Indiana University. 2007. https://aaamc.indiana.edu/liner-notes-pdfs/linernotes12.pdf

Related Information


Extensions of Tradition(s)

(William (Bill) Banfield)


Composering - Composing in the Modern Urbane: Symphonic and Vocal Music Art by Bill Banfield

(William (Bill) Banfield)


Playing With Other People's Heads: Songs

(William (Bill) Banfield)



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