Esty chair endowed at Bates

William Matthews, professor of music at Bates College, has been named the first Alice Swanson Esty Professor of Music.

A Bates faculty member for 19 years, Matthews has been a full professor of music since 1993. He serves as department chair, conducts the Bates College Orchestra and teaches a wide variety of courses including composition, music theory, jazz and computer music.

The new professorship, announced by the president of the college, was funded by a $1 million gift from Alice Swanson Esty, Bates class of ’25. A patron of music and the visual arts, Esty is herself an accomplished vocalist. For many years she regularly commissioned, then sang in recitals, works by composers Francis Poulenc, Virgil Thomson and Ned Rorem.

“I’ve admired Alice Esty since we first met years ago, and the longer I’ve known her, the more I’ve come to admire her,” Matthews said. “So I am personally honored to be included on the list of eminent musicians and painters she has supported and encouraged. There was no music department at Bates when she was a student here, so this professorship is a generous acknowledgement of what we’ve been able to accomplish as a department,” he said.

“Music, in its many forms, has grown to be an integral piece of the fabric that makes up the Bates experience, and Alice Esty has played a vitally important role in its growth,” President Donald W. Harward said. “Her years of generous support for the Bates orchestra and her willingness to underwrite special musical events, without hesitation, have served to heighten awareness of and appreciation for the musical arts on our campus.”

A flutist and accomplished composer, Matthews’ more than 60 works for various media include solo instrumental, vocal, chamber, orchestral, choral and theatrical pieces.

Recent compositions by Matthews include “Ear Music,” for vocalist, pianist and eight channels of digital sound effects, performed in the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s NextWave Festival (1996); “Double Concerto,” a three-movement work based in part on Franco-American tunes, commissioned by the Androscoggin Valley Community Orchestra and composed for violinist Steve Kecskemethy and violist Julia Adams of the Portland String Quartet (1996); “Blackbird,” for Disklavier, synthesizers and soundfiles, commissioned by pianist Todd Welbourne of the University of Wisconsin, Madison; “Avalanche,” for synthesizers, composed for the Bates Modern Dance Company, featuring Michael Foley (1996); “Salut!” for the Portland Symphony Orchestra (1997); and “When the Toads Ring,” written for the Bates College Inaugural Clark A. Griffith Lecture (1997).

* Matthews’ works in progress include a new work for the Portland String Quartet.

He received his bachelor’s degree from the Oberlin College Conservatory in 1972, a master’s degree from the University of Iowa in 1974, and an M.M.A. and D.M.A from Yale University in 1978 and 1982 respectively. He studied computer music at Rijksuniversiteit Utrecht, Netherlands, from 1974-76.

Matthews has received an ASCAP Young Composers Award, a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar fellowship, a Charles Ives fellowship from the National Institute of Arts and Letters and a National Endowment for the Arts Composer/Librettist fellowship.

Matthews lives with his wife and two children in Lewiston.

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