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William Phemister has received acclaim around the world for creative artistry on the concert stage, as a music educator, and as a church musician. The US State Department and the People-to-People Program presented him throughout Africa, including South Africa, Kenya, and Ethiopia, plus residencies in Tanzania, Senegal, and the Central African Republic. Another tour to 14 Asian countries provided venues for concerts and master classes from Japan to Afghanistan, followed by more tours to Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and China's significant music conservatories in Beijing and Chengdu. In the United States and Europe, he has performed on television and radio, in universities and churches, and with orchestras such as the Baltimore Symphony with Arthur Fiedler.
In addition to his 40-year tenure at Wheaton College, Dr Phemister also taught at Nyack College, the University of Missouri/Columbia, Goucher College, and College of Notre Dame of Maryland. While in Maryland, he was also the Director of the Baltimore Symphony Chorus.
William Phemister is a Steinway Artist, earning a 1964 Fulbright Grant to Paris and winning the National Federation of Music Clubs most prestigious award in 1971. Musical studies included the Juilliard School (BS), the Ecole Normale de Musique (Licence de Concert), and Peabody Conservatory (MM and DMA) where his mentor was Leon Fleisher. Favorite composers are J.S. Bach, Brahms, and the French Impressionists
Phemister edited the six-volume Masterworks Piano Library (Fred Bock Music Company). Rowman & Littlefield published his American Piano Concerto Compendium in 2018. University of Michigan piano professor Louis Nagel describes it as a “yeoman effort by a fine pianist, successful teacher and tireless scholar.” A collection of his piano hymn arrangements, Holy, Holy, Holy, was published in 2020 by Alfred Music. Future projects include a Charles Wesley collection, plus hymns by Fanny Crosby and William Doane. He loves to set the Psalms to music, and has also composed a Liturgical Suite and many Christmas carol arrangements.
One of Phemister’s favorite projects is his piano transcription of Haydn’s string quartets on “The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross.” Initially heard on Good Friday in the Rotunda of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, it has made an appearance each year at different venues in the Chicago area. Listeners find it to be a deeply significant part of their Holy Week experience.
In the 1980’s, he was the featured classical artist on transatlantic crossings of the Queen Elizabeth 2. Currently, he continues to teach privately, perform, compose, edit, transcribe, and record piano compositions as well as being involved in area church music programs. He lives in Carol Stream, Illinois with Mary Anne, his writer wife. Their daughter, Susan, is a U.S. State Department diplomat.