William Neil, organist and harpsichordist of the National Symphony Orchestra, is one of the busiest and most sought after keyboard artists in the nation’s capital and throughout the United States. Prior to his 2001 appointment as Organist of The National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC, he served as Organist of Rockefeller Memorial Chapel at the University of Chicago, a position held by some of the world’s most noted organists. He has appeared as soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra under batons of Gianandrea Noseda, Mstislav Rostropovich, Lorin Maazel and Leonard Slatkin. His discography includes recordings for Philips, SONY, Naxos, Newport Classic and MSR Classics.
A 1962 graduate of Tyrone Area High School, Bill went on to complete his bachelor’s degree in organ performance at Penn State University in 1966. He has been a member of the faculties at Ithaca College, Catholic University of America and George Mason University. Many of his former students now hold prominent academic and church positions in the United States and around the world. In 2009 and 2011, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award and Alumni Fellow Awards, granted by Penn State’s College of Arts and Architecture and the PSU Alumni Association.
A champion of new music, Mr. Neil was organ soloist at the Kennedy Center in the world-premiere concerts of Samuel Adler’s A Festive Proclamation, one of 25 fanfares by American composers commissioned by the National Symphony to introduce each concert of the 1995 season. Performances with the Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra in Chicago and the premiere of Jonathan Leshnoff’s Cosmic Echoes with NSO Principal Trumpeter, Steven Hendrickson are among his many credits.
William Neil is often referred to as the “trumpeter’s organist,” having concertized and recorded with many of the world’s noted brass musicians, including Pierre Thibault, Don Smithers, Mark Gould, Edward Carroll and David Bilger. He is organist on the Grammy Award winning CD, A War Requiem by Benjamin Britten, recorded by National Public Radio commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. Mr. Neil was also the first Washington organist to perform on the Charles Fisk Organ at the Meyerson Center in Dallas, Texas. In 2001 he inaugurated the new Casavant organ at Robert Jacoby Hall, Jacksonville, FL. In 2006 he joined members of the Philadelphia Orchestra Brass Section in a debut of the new Dobson Organ in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center. His CD featuring masterworks of Bach, Handel, Franck and world premieres of Adler and Ewazen celebrating the 40th anniversary of the John Jay Hopkins Memorial Organ at The National Presbyterian Church was released in 2005 by MSR Classics. Gramophone Magazine cited the disc as one of its 10 best recordings the following year.
The Washington Post once called William Neil “an organist who has gone out of his way to play chamber music.” Some of the greatest orchestral repertoire for the pipe organ is found in music by Strauss, Respighi, Elgar, Holst, Mendelssohn, Mahler and of course, Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3, familiar to most listeners as the Organ Symphony. Mr. Neil’s encounters with the Saint-Saens includes dozens of concerts over the years. In 2008 he performed the work at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center in Penn State’s President’s Concert, and at the Kennedy Center the same year with Lorin Maazel conducting the NSO in a series of concerts concluding the 37-year legacy of the Filene Memorial Organ.
Bill has two children, Christopher Neil and Margaret Hammer, three grandchildren, and resides in Marshall, Virginia. His hobbies include reading, sports, swimming, travel, restoration of classic German vehicles, and standard poodles, especially Berlioz who enjoys country life in Virginia’s beautiful Blue Ridge as much as his owner.