Bill Dobbins is Professor Emeritus of jazz studies & contemporary media at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. He joined the faculty in 1973, and was instrumental in designing the curricula for the masters and bachelors degree programs offered by Eastman’s Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media department. As a pianist, he performed with orchestras and chamber ensembles under the direction of Louis Lane, Pierre Boulez, Lukas Foss and Frederick Fennell, and he performed and recorded with such jazz artists as Clark Terry, Al Cohn, Red Mitchell, Phil Woods, Bill Goodwin, Dave Liebman, John Goldsby and Peter Erskine. Many of his students have been heard in the big bands of Count Basie, Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, Chuck Mangione, Maria Schneider, and Bob Brookmeyer’s New Art Orchestra.
From 1994 through 2002 Mr. Dobbins was principal director of the WDR Big Band in Cologne, Germany and headed the jazz studies department at the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne from 1998 to 2002. Concert, radio, television and tour projects under his direction with the WDR Big Band included internationally acclaimed soloists Clark Terry, Dave Liebman, Randy Brecker, Gary Bartz, Eddie Henderson, Kevin Mahogany, Art Farmer, Steve Lacy, Paquito D’Rivera, Mark Feldman, Gary Foster, Clare Fischer, Peter Erskine, Nicholas Simion, Danilo Pérez, and the Kings Singers. In 2002 he returned to the Eastman faculty, teaching the jazz composing and arranging courses and directing the award winning Eastman Jazz Ensemble and Eastman Studio Orchestra. He continues to compose and arrange for the WDR Big Band and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra.
Mr. Dobbins’ educational materials, compositions and arrangements for big band, chamber music and piano, textbooks, CDs, and DVDs, have been adopted by jazz programs worldwide for use in their courses. These include Jazz Arranging and Composing: a Linear Approach, Composing and Arranging for the Contemporary Big Band, A Creative Approach to Jazz Piano Harmony, How to Play Piano in a Big Band, Preludes and Predilections, volumes 1-4 (CDs), a DVD, The Evolution of Solo Jazz Piano, and Conversations with Bill Holman: Thoughts and Recollections of a Jazz Master. Recordings of his big band arrangements of the music of classical masterpieces include J.S. Bach: Christmas Oratorio, with the Kings Singers and the WDR Big Band (Signum Classics), and Ariabesques – WDR Big Band plays Bach: The Goldberg Variations (Jazzline). He retired in 2022.
Transcriptions and Texts
Chick Corea: Now He Sings, Now He Sobs
Herbie Hancock: Classic Jazz Compositions and Piano Solos
Clare Fischer: Alone Together/Just Me
Jazz Arranging and Composing: A Linear Approach and a Creative Approach to Jazz Piano Harmony
Preludes & Predilections, volumes 1-4 (Advance Music)
Prism: The WDR Big Band Plays the Music of Bill Dobbins and Peter Erskine (Advance Music)
A Tribute to B.A.C.H.: Rolf Römer-Bill Dobbins Quartet (Edition Collage)
Kevin Mahogany with the WDR Big Band: Pussycat Dues (ENJA)
Paquito D’Rivera with the WDR Big Band: Big Band Time
Cologne, with bassist John Goldsby and drummer Peter Erskine (Fuzzy Music)