William McGlaughlin’s introduction to music came late; he was fourteen before he took his first piano lessons. "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."
Over the years, McGlaughlin was to discover that "being a musician" could embrace a great many paths. He has served as an educator, as a performer— a trombonist with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Pittsburgh Symphony, and as a conductor — seven years as Associate Conductor with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, followed by periods as music director of orchestras in Eugene, Tucson and San Francisco, and most recently, a twelve year engagement as Music Director of the Kansas City Symphony. He has also been active as a guest conductor, leading the Baltimore Symphony, Denver Symphony, Houston Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, National Symphony, New Orleans Symphony, Oregon Symphony, Pacific Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Opera Theatre St. Louis, American Music Theater Festival and San Antonio Festival.
McGlaughlin has also been active in broadcasting, serving as host of the popular public radio program St. Paul Sunday since its inception in 1980. In 1996 the program received the highest honor in broadcasting, the George Foster Peabody Award. McGlaughlin has worked with PBS, the BBC and as co-host of the chamber music program Center Stage From Wolf Trap. In November 2002, the NEA announced a special grant to the WFMT Radio Network to fund the development of a new daily program: Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin, which began syndication on October 6, 2003. Exploring Music plays in two hundred markets across the country as well as in Australia and New Zealand. Bill McGlaughlin is also the host of Concerts from the Library of Congress.
It was not until 1997 that McGlaughlin made a public debut as a 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 premiere with the Kansas City Symphony and was quickly followed by five more premieres within a ten month span. Aaron’s Horizons, a work dedicated to the spirit of Aaron Copland, with whom McGlaughin worked in the 1970s, has been heard nation wide in a broadcast with members of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.