Dr. Quincy Hilliard
University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s composer in residence
Romero & Romero Photography
Though Dr. Quincy Hilliard claims he is an “average musician,” he has earned impressive chops as a composer and conductor.
“I’m not going to sit here and tell you I was an outstanding musician and all that kind of stuff. I was just an average musician,” says Hilliard, the Composer in Residence and the Heymann Endowed Professor of Music at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette. He earned a long tenure at ULL, having worked there since the fall of 1986. His works have earned him numerous awards, and his music has been performed around the world.
The Starkville, Mississippi, native grew up playing the trumpet but quickly turned his attention to teaching. He pursued an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in music education. He became interested in composing during graduate school.
“I wasn’t some child prodigy,” Hilliard says. “I wasn’t like some little kid running around writing tunes at 3 and 4 years old, all that kind of stuff.” Hilliard says he benefited from mentors that helped him along the way, leading to earning his Ph.D. in music theory and composition from the University of Florida.
Hilliard has amassed an impressive list of accomplishments as a composer for wind band. He was commissioned to write works for the 1996 Olympic Games and the score for the documentary The Texas Rangers. In 1998, the Library of Congress tapped him to compose a work for the bicentennial celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.
Hilliard has received several awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers and is a scholar of Aaron Copland’s music and life. He’s also written several books for school band instructors.
In June, Hilliard was honored with an award from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters for his composition “Kojiki,” a dramatic telling of a Japanese goddess’s journey through the underworld.
“That was a very prestigious award, because it was an outside reviewer who chose my piece over several others. It was a composer recognizable at a different level, who is well-respected, well-known. That was very gratifying to me,” he says.
Hilliard keeps busy with commissions too; right now, he has four in the works. He’s written extensively about music education, which has helped to set him apart in the field. His books include Superior Bands in Sixteen Weeks; Chorales and Rhythmic Etudes for Superior Bands; and Theory Concepts. Hilliard has also published articles in Opera Journal; The Instrumentalist; School Musician; Bandworld; American Music Teacher; Florida Music Director; and Tennessee Musician.
And of course, he’s busy teaching music theory and composition at ULL. Hilliard also runs a consulting firm called Hilliard Music Enterprises, Inc.
The humble composer gives credit to the university for supporting him over the years.
“The administration has been a big part of my success. They’ve made me feel at home,” he says. “And because of that, I have not left this university. I’ve had other offers. But I haven’t gone because they’ve been loyal to me. They’ve developed me.”