Former MENC President Willie Hill Tapped for Grambling Alumni Hall of Fame

Professor (Willie L.) Hill Jr. enjoys performing.

Former MENC President Willie L. Hill Jr.  has been named to Grambling State University’s Alumni Hall Of Fame. He will be formally inducted during ceremonies on Oct. 17 during homecoming weekend at the Louisiana school.

Hill was president of MENC from 2002–2004, and currently chairs of the new Society for Jazz Education of MENC. He is director of the Fine Arts Center and professor of music education at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Grambling State celebrates the accomplishments of exceptional alumni who make substantial and unique contributions to society and the university.

Upon receiving the honor Hill said, “I was privileged to have the opportunity to attend an all Black college (Grambling College, now Grambling State University) in Louisiana from 1964-68 during the middle of the 1960s which were very tumultuous times in our country’s history. It was during those formative years in my life I learned that great teachers like Conrad Hutchinson (GSU Band Director), Mr. William Wiley (my clarinet instructor) and others would play such a significant role in my development. They inspired me as a result of their incredible talent, dedication and positive role modeling. It was there that I learned to trust and interact with individuals (professors and fellow students) who really cared about my future and me. It was there that I met my bride to be Beverly Gibson who I’ve been married to for over 40 years.”

He added: “My positive experiences at GSU went beyond the social interaction with peers, and the academic requirements, they pointed me in the right direction to live a very fulfilling and productive life. It was there that I learned to understand and appreciate people with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. It was at GSU that the true inspiration to listen to and create music, and eventually share that passion for this art form with my students, was fueled by my experiences at this institution.

“I am very proud to have been chosen to receive such a prestigious award. To be able to have my family, wife Beverly and our son Byron, and friends witness this event with me at GSU is certainly the highlight of my career and life.”

Hill received his B.S. from Grambling and earned an M.M. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Colorado-Boulder. Hill was a professor of music education and assistant dean at the College of Music at the University of Colorado-Boulder for 11 years. He was also of director of education for the Thelonious Monk Institute in Los Angeles.

Prior to his tenure at the Colorado university, Hill taught instrumental music for 16 years and served as instrumental music supervisor for four years in the Denver Public Schools.

In 2000, Hill received the Lawrence Berk Leadership Award from the International Association for Jazz Education and the Jazz Education Achievement Award from Downbeat Magazine. In 1998, he was inducted into the Colorado Music Educators Hall of Fame.

He is also author of several books, including “The Instrumental History of Jazz,” “Approaching the Standards,” and “Jazz Pedagogy: The Jazz Educator’s Handbook and Resource Guide.”

A performing musician, Hill also has played with stars ranging from Liza Minnelli and Lena Horne to Grover Washington Jr. and Gladys Knight and the Pips to the Denver Symphony Orchestra and Woody Herman.

“Willie Hill has brought distinction and honor to UMass through his service on the faculty and as director of the Fine Arts Center. On behalf of the UMass community, I compliment him on this well-deserved recognition,” said Provost Charlena Seymour.

Roz Fehr, October 2, 2008. © MENC: The National Association for Music Education