Celebrating 63 Years of Inspired Music Making!

June 22 – July 27, 2024

William Wolfram: Harmonizing Eastern Music Festival with Unparalleled Brilliance

By: Catharine Yoder, EMF Media and Communications Intern

Within the colorful history of the Eastern Music Festival (EMF), a celebrated platform for nurturing young talent and showcasing artistic brilliance, one name resonates with exceptional virtuosity: concert pianist and piano faculty member William “Bill” Wolfram. As a distinguished artist and a cherished figure within the festival’s community, Wolfram’s virtuosic performances, teaching, and enduring connection to EMF have transformed the musical landscape, captivating audiences, and inspiring emerging musicians with his remarkable artistry.


For EMF’s 62nd Season, Wolfram kicks off the Joseph M. Bryan Jr. Festival Orchestra Series on Saturday, July 1, 2023 with a performance of Franz Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto.


When discussing his upcoming Saturday performance, Wolfram reflected on his relationship with Maestro Gerard Schwarz saying: “I’ve played a lot of concertos with Gerard Schwarz here at EMF and lots of other places. I’ve played this Liszt concerto here and I also played it in Seattle many years ago, so we have a nice partnership.”


“This piano concerto has a lot of challenges that are similar to many other Liszt works, in that it’s very physical. There’s a lot of virtuosic physicality in Liszt’s music, and then it suddenly changes into a very intimate, beautiful, romantic melody,” said Wolfram. “I’ve played a lot of Liszt in my life so I’m used to that in his music. It’s what makes it good and fun to perform.”


Referring to his upcoming performance, the Julliard Alumni said, “This is a piano concerto, so the piano has sort of this starring role, but you are collaborating with many other musicians in the orchestra and with the conductor. It’s an interesting collaboration. You usually meet with the conductor beforehand and talk over what you want to do with the piece which gives this space where you have to feel each other out and form this trust together.”


Along with orchestral collaboration, another concept that Wolfram is very passionate about is balancing between staying true to the composer’s intentions for the piece while also adding a personal touch to the music as a performer. 


“I actively believe that you really should — as a performer — put a personal stamp on that performance, of course without running a rough shot over the composer’s intentions. There are certain freedoms and certain things that can be done that will put your personality into pieces and I think that’s actually good,” said Wolfram.


In order to prepare himself for a performance of this magnitude, Wolfram finds peace in spending time by himself before any performance to get in the right headspace. Like every other artist, Wolfram finds himself experiencing performance anxiety every so often, but he is always able to perform to the best of his gifted ability.


“It’s a difficult balancing act because I get very nervous before I play, always have,” Wolfram said. “I really just need space to get into my own little world beforehand, but everyone is different. I think it really allows me to narrow my focus and somehow control distractions because I find that if I am forced to talk beforehand, that will be the only thing I’ll think about instead of thinking about the performance.”


Wolfram’s mentorship extends beyond the confines of the concert hall, fostering an environment of creativity, growth, and artistic exploration. Through masterclasses, private lessons, and insightful discussions, he instills in his EMF students a deep appreciation for the craft, encouraging them to push boundaries and cultivate their unique artistic voices.


When asked to share some advice for his fellow students and mentees, Wolfram said, “Try to base less of your work and attitude on what other people are doing. Stick to yourself a little bit more, work as hard as you can, hope for some luck, and don’t follow everybody else’s career every three seconds.”


William Wolfram’s profound connection to the Eastern Music Festival has left an enduring legacy, enriching the festival’s history and shaping its future. His performances, mentorship, and collaborations continue to inspire a new generation of musicians, fostering a spirit of artistic exploration and excellence.


Make sure to come out and see Bill Wolfram perform with the Eastern Festival Orchestra on Saturday, July 1 at 8:00 PM in Dana Auditorium.

Tickets are on sale now at easternmusicfestival.org