Many years ago, as a young musician, Bill Duckworth flirted with the idea of becoming a technologist. He didn't, but when his diverse interests intersected, they changed the world of music — and music around the world.
From his early years, Duckworth seemed destined to become a musician. He began playing piano at a young age, then learned to play the trombone, and, after college, even took an interest in medieval and Renaissance instruments. His high school band director, M. Thomas Cousins, had performed in the NBC Symphony with the famed Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini, inspired Duckworth's long career in music education and composition.
He arrived at Bucknell in 1973, and the University became the launch pad of a pioneer.
"When I got to Bucknell, they talked a lot about the teacher-scholar model. They encouraged us to go off in different directions," Duckworth says. "The administrators and Board of Trustees recognized that you get the best work out of the people who have their fingers in many pies, so to speak."
Duckworth utilized the best of both the musical and technological worlds to develop innovative performances including a worldwide New Year's orchestra via iPhone. His creativity touched the hearts and minds of his students at the University, but also influenced musicians and musical visionaries worldwide.
Duckworth's solo piano work, The Time Curve Preludes, written between 1977-78, is considered the first post-minimal composition. In 2001, his web project, Cathedral, performed a 48-hour webcast that streamed across five continents.
Speaking from his home in West New York, N.J., Duckworth reflected on that experience. "There were fewer than one million sites on the web when we went live with Cathedral, and only a small fraction had sound," he says. "It was an experimental project. At the time, it was the new frontier, as far as music was concerned."
As he walks away from Bucknell, Duckworth focuses his attention not only on composing, but also on his pursuits in Australia. As a former Senior Fulbright Specialist in Information Technology at the Queensland Conservatorium, he plans to return there to mentor doctoral students. He's also learning Mandarin in preparation for travel and teaching in China.
Ever the optimist, Duckworth looks back fondly on his years of experience — and the years that lie ahead. "I don't think of it as retiring," he says. "I'm just moving to another venue — another theater of operation."
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