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William Kraft

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William Kraft


William Kraft (6 September 1923, Chicago, Ill. – 12 February 2022, Verdugo Hills, Calif.) was an American composer, conductor, percussionist and educator.

Kraft received his bachelor’s degree cum laude (1951) and his master’s degree (1954) from Columbia University, where he was awarded two Anton Seidl Fellowships. His principal instructors were Jack Beeson, Seth Bingham, Henry Brant, Henry Cowell, Erich Hertzmann, Paul Henry Lang, Otto Luening and Vladimir Ussachevsky. He received his training in percussion from Morris Goldenberg and in timpani from Saul Goodman, and studied conducting with Rudolph Thomas and Fritz Zweig.

In the summer of 2002, he retired as chairman of the composition department and holder of the Corwin Chair at the University of California, Santa Barbara. From 1981-1985, Kraft was the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Composer-in-Residence. During his residency, he was founder and director of the orchestra’s performing arm for contemporary music, the Philharmonic New Music Group. Kraft had previously been a performing member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 26 years – eight years as percussionist, and the last 18 as Principal Timpanist. For three seasons, he was also assistant conductor of the Philharmonic, and, thereafter, made frequent appearances as guest conductor.

During his early years in Los Angeles, Kraft organized and directed the Los Angeles Percussion Ensemble, a group which played a vital part in premieres and recordings of works by such renowned composers as Ginastera, Harrison, Krenek, Stravinsky, Varèse, and many others. As percussion soloist, he performed the American premieres of Stockhausen’s Zyklus and Boulez’s Le Marteau sans Maître, in addition to recording Histoire du soldat under Stravinsky’s direction.

Kraft received numerous commissions and awards, including two Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards; two Guggenheim Fellowships; two Ford Foundation commissions; fellowships from the Huntington Hartford Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts; the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Music Award; and numerous others. Mr. Kraft’s works have been performed by orchestras throughout the United States and around the world, including in Europe, Japan, Korea, China, Australia, Israel, and the former Soviet Union. In November 1990, Mr. Kraft was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Percussive Arts Society.

Works for Winds


  • Miles, Richard B. 2000. Teaching Music Through Performance in Band. Volume 3. Chicago: GIA Publications. pp. 647.
  • Smith, Norman E. (2002). Program Notes for Band. Chicago: GIA Publications, pp. 357.
  • William Kraft. Wikipedia. Accessed 8 September 2021