Each week for nearly twenty five years, Bill McGlaughlin has invited listeners into the Saint Paul Sunday studio where he brings musical performances of the highest order down to earth for all who tune in. Unafraid to ask the most basic questions, Bill reflects and cajoles, translates and turns pages-anything to illuminate the spirited music-making that takes place each week on the program. "If I had been able to imagine Saint Paul Sunday as a kid," he says, "I think I’d have been in ecstasy at the idea of having the whole wide world of music to run around in, and best of everything, to be able to bring friends along."
His accent is left over from childhood, a combination of influences from his Scots grandfather and south-Philadelphia upbringing. When an older brother was no longer interested in going to pre-paid piano lessons, McGlaughlin was sent along instead, and a life-long passion was born. "Happily, I understood immediately what a wonderful thing I'd stumbled into. I can remember thinking as I walked away from my second piano lesson, 'Well, that's it-I'll be a musician.' Of course, I had no idea what that decision meant exactly."
He pursued his studies at Temple University, and under the tutelage of William Smith, then associate conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, he began to conduct. He went on to conducting positions with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Tucson Symphony, and, most recently, the Kansas City Symphony, for which he served as Music Director. During his twelve-season tenure in Kansas City, he greatly expanded the orchestra’s repertory, commissioned many new works, and was widely credited with strengthening its reputation.
It was not until 1997 that McGlaughlin made a public debut in the role that he considers the most challenging- that of composer. His Three Dreams and a Question: Choral Songs on e. e. cummings, a work dedicated to memory of the young composer and pianist Kevin Oldham, was enthusiastically received by audience, performers, and press at its première with the Kansas City Symphony-and it was quickly followed by five more premières within a 10-month span. Aaron’s Horizons, a work dedicated to the spirit of Aaron Copland, with whom McGlaughin worked in the 1970s, has been heard nationwide in a Saint Paul Sunday broadcast with members of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.
In the summer of 1998 McGlaughlin signed a contract with Subito Music, which now publishes all of his work. He is currently at work on a number of works and is still, in his words, "on cloud nine" after having been selected as a participating composer in Continental Harmony, a Millennium project sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Composers Forum. McGlaughlin's commission engaged 800 voices and orchestra and was performed at an international festival that convened choruses from five continents.
It's rare for a classical series to have a working musician as host, and it makes for a complicated, if deeply rewarding, schedule for McGlaughlin. Conducting, composing, and interviewing may seem to have little in common, but to McGlaughlin they complement one another and spark new insights for each.
When he is not working with musicians, he's frequently hanging out with them. He is often on the road with his partner, acclaimed jazz singer Karin Allyson. And when music is not the focus of his attention, he may be biking (too fast), playing Frisbee golf, or cooking up some spicy noodles for friends. He loves to teach and has plans to do more composing, arranging, and conducting in future years.