Amy Williams, composer

Amy Williams headshot

Amy Williams is a composer of music that is “simultaneously demanding, rewarding and fascinating” (Buffalo News), “fresh, daring and incisive” (Fanfare). Her works have been presented at renowned international contemporary music venues, including the Thailand International Composition Festival, Ars Musica (Belgium), Gaudeamus Music Week (Netherlands), Luzerne Festival (Switzerland), Dresden New Music Days, Festival Aspekte (Austria), Festival Musica Nova (Brazil), Whitney Museum, Roulette, Bargemusic (New York), LA County Museum of Art, Piano Spheres (Los Angeles) and Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music. They have been performed by leading contemporary music soloists and ensembles, including the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, Ensemble Aleph, Dal Niente, Talujon, Bent Frequency, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), H2 Saxophone Quartet, pianist Ursula Oppens and bassist Robert Black. Her pieces appear on the Parma, VDM (Italy), Blue Griffin, Centaur and New Ariel labels and there are two portrait CDs of her solo and chamber works& on the Albany label.

As a member of the Bugallo-Williams Piano Duo, Ms. Williams has performed throughout Europe and the Americas, including the Ojai Festival, CAL Performances, Miller Theatre, Musica Contemporanea Ciclos de Conciertos (Buenos Aires), Palacio de Bellas Artes (Mexico City), Warsaw Autumn, Cologne Triennale, and Wittener Täge für Neue Kammermusik. The Duo’s debut CD of Conlon Nancarrow's complete music for solo piano and piano duet (Wergo, 2004) has garnered much critical acclaim. Wergo released subsequent CDs, including the music of Stravinsky (2007 and 2018), Morton Feldman and Edgard Varèse (2009), and György Kurtág (2015). Their recording of the Bartók Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion was released in a monograph by the Paul Sacher Foundation in 2018. Ms. Williams has also recorded for Mode, Albany, Beauport and Hat-Art. She is the recipient of a Howard Foundation Fellowship for 2008-2009, a Fromm Music Foundation Commission (2009) and a Koussevitsky Foundation Commission for an upcoming work for the JACK Quartet and soprano Tony Arnold. She was named a 2015-2016 Guggenheim Fellow in Music Composition, winner of the 2016 Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a U.S. Fulbright Scholar to Ireland for 2017-2018.

Ms. Williams holds a Ph.D. in composition from the University at Buffalo, where she also received her Master's degree in piano performance. She has taught at Bennington College (1997-2000) and Northwestern University (2000-2005) and is currently Associate Professor of Composition at the University of Pittsburgh. An avid proponent of contemporary music, she served as Assistant Director of June In Buffalo, Director of New Music Northwestern, and is currently on the Artistic Boards of the Pittsburgh-based concert series, Music on the Edge, and the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust for New Music. She is Artistic Director of the New Music on the Point Festival in Vermont.


Amy Williams' piece Telephone premiered with the Grossman Ensemble on December 3, 2021.


Program notes: 

The children’s game Telephone requires careful listening. The process of passing a simple phrase around a circle of individuals creates inevitable (and fascinating) transformations. Most often the listener tries to duplicate what they heard precisely, but sometimes there is an intentional (devious or hilarious) change. We played the game of Telephone during the first Grossman Ensemble rehearsal in September. The Ensemble’s unique format, with time given to elaborate on ideas through collaboration and conversation, was essential to the concept of the piece—and to its playful energy. There is certainly some subtext about the omnipresence of telephones in our lives. We switch quickly between text threads and sometimes mistakenly respond to the wrong person. We delete (superficial, informational, irrelevant) threads and we save other (complex, emotional, memorable) ones. We seek comfort, distraction, and connection from telephones. It is relentless, but also full of possibilities, as we find new ways to communicate and keep conversations going. 

Grossman Ensemble premieres Amy Williams' "Telephone"