Join | Contact Us | FAQ | Print Page | Sign In
News & Press: In Memoriam

William Porter, 1932-2020

Tuesday, August 25, 2020   (2 Comments)

William V. Porter, professor emeritus of musicology, died Tuesday, August 18, at age 87.

Born on September 8, 1932, in Raleigh, North Carolina, Porter received a bachelor's degree in music in 1954 from Davidson College, a master's in music history in 1956 from Oberlin College, and a PhD in music history from Yale University in 1962. Elected to Pi Kappa Lambda at Oberlin, he also received fellowships from Yale and a grant for four weeks of study at the Vatican in 1986.

Porter came to Northwestern in 1961 as an instructor of music history and literature. He retired in 1999 as professor, having served as acting chair of music history and literature. He remained active with projects relating to his specialization, late 16th- and 17th-century Italian music.

A member of the American Musicological Society, American Music Library Association, and International Musicological Society, Porter was the author of numerous articles and papers. He was a contributor to the Encyclopedia BritannicaNew Grove Dictionary of Music and MusiciansSohlmans MusiklexikonStudi MusicaliCon che soavitaEssays in Honor of John F. Ohl, and Journal of the American Musicological Society, for which he served on the editorial board. His obituary is published here.


Keith E. Clifton says...
Posted Sunday, September 13, 2020
Dr. Porter was one of my favorite professors in graduate school at Northwestern. He had a sharp, dry wit, and would become positively giddy when talking about and listening to the composers he most loved (Caccini, Monteverdi, and Handel especially). I retained and still use notes from his classes in my own teaching. After my graduation, he transitioned into retirement and I transitioned—somewhat reluctantly—into addressing him by first name. Bill never missed a national AMS meeting and often attending Midwest chapter meetings, especially when NU students, faculty, or alumni were presenting. The last time I saw him was during intermission at a Chicago Symphony concert in 2018, where he told me about the many travels that awaited him. What a remarkable scholar, teacher, and person he was. Keith Clifton, Professor of Musicology, Central Michigan University
James L. Ladewig says...
Posted Friday, September 4, 2020
I met Bill Porter in 1967 as a freshman at Northwestern. As I had taken music history in high school, I already knew that I wanted to be a history major. I remember my first advisee meeting and trying to convince Bill to let me take the history survey as a freshman, rather than waiting until sophomore year, to which he graciously agreed. Graciousness is the perfect word to describe Bill, a result of his southern upbringing. When I was looking at graduate schools, I had my heart set on going to New York or New England. But Bill said, "You really should look at Berkeley, too." I still thank Bill from the bottom of my heart, because if I had not done so, my wife, past-president Jane Bernstein, and I would never have met! Bill was an avid concert-goer and traveler. Through 2018, he would travel to Europe every year, and he attended concerts in Chicago most nights of the week. I will miss seeing him at AMS meetings, which he attended regularly until just a couple years ago. -Jim Ladewig