The Kennedy Center

William Neil


William Neil, National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) organist and harpsichordist, is one of the busiest and most sought after keyboard artists in this region and throughout the United States. From 1998 to 2000, he served as organist of Chicago’s Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, a post held by some of the world’s most noted organists, and in 2001 became organist of Washington’s National Presbyterian Church. He is also organist for the Choral Arts Society of Washington and the Washington Symphonic Brass. He has appeared as soloist with the NSO in performances led by Leonard Slatkin, Mstislav Rostropovich, Alessandro Siciliani, Christopher Hogwood, Iona Brown, and Jose-Luis Garcia, and is featured in recordings on the Philips, Sony, Naxos, Summit, Newport Classic and MSR Classics labels.

A champion of new music, Neil was organist in the world premiere concerts of Adler’s Festive Proclamation, one of 25 fanfares by American composers commissioned by Leonard Slatkin in honor of the Kennedy Center’s 25th season. As soloist with the National Symphony, he has performed Jongen’s Symphonie Concertante, Janácek’s Glagolitic Mass, Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony and Copland’s Symphony for Organ and Orchestra.  He performed Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ, Strings & Timpani with Chicago’s Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra, and premiered Leshnoff’s Cosmic Echoes with NSO Assistant Principal Trumpet Steven Hendrickson.

Often described as the trumpeter’s organist, William Neil has performed and recorded with many noted brass musicians, including Pierre Thibault, Don Smithers, Mark Gould, Edward Carroll, David Hickman, and David Bilger. His new CD, Poulenc Organ Concerto, with the Eclipse Chamber Orchestra, has received national critical acclaim. He is also organist on the Grammy Award-winning Naxos CD of Britten’s War Requiem.  He was a featured soloist in the inaugural concerts of the Casavant organ at Robert Jacoby Hall with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, in Barber’s Toccata Festiva, and was organ soloist with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra Brass Section in a debut concert of the new Dobson Organ in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center. In 2011 Neil was the featured soloist in NSO performances of Camille Saint-Saëns’s Symphony No. 3 (Organ Symphony) conducted by Christoph Eschenbach, for the inauguration of the new Casavant Organ at the Kennedy Center.

An active harpsichordist, William Neil spends much of his time as a continuo player with period and modern instrument ensembles, performing 18th – 21st century music.  Highlights include Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos with Eclipse Chamber Orchestra, Mass in B Minor with Baltimore Choral Arts Society, and organ recitals in Korea, Washington, and Chicago.  He also performs on surround-sound CD in works of Bach, Handel, Franck, Adler, Ewazen and Widor, recorded on the great Aeolian-Skinner organ of the National Presbyterian Church.  In 2005 Gramophone named the disc as one of the year’s best recordings.

This season’s NSO concerts include performances of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem and Saint-Saëns’s Organ Symphony, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda, as well as Handel’s Messiah.

A graduate of Penn State and Syracuse Universities, William Neil’s teachers include Leonard Raver, Arthur Poister, Will Headlee, and Anthony Newman. He has served on the faculties of George Mason University and Catholic University. Many of his former students now hold prominent positions in the United States and internationally. Recent honors by Penn State University include the School of Music Alumni Award (2009), and the Alumni Fellow Award (2011), the highest award presented to a PSU graduate for distinguished contribution to the Performing Arts and to the University.
Photo of Neil William