william dehning, conductor

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About William Dehning


William Dehning retired in 2007 after fifteen years as Chairman and Professor of Choral Music at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, where he conducted the USC Chamber Choir and taught choral conducting in a department of 15 -20 resident graduate students. For twenty years prior to his appointment to USC, Dehning was Director of Choirs at the University of the Pacific, where he was recipient of the university's Distinguished Professor Award and its Commencement speaker in 1991, and where he was honored by the alumni for his years of service.

Under his leadership, the Thornton Chamber Choir won seven prizes in international European competitions, including Grand Prizes in Varna, Bulgaria and Tours, France. During his tenure, the ensemble also appeared to standing ovations at ACDA conventions six times, including nationals in 2001 and 2005, where they received multiple standing ovations. They also completed a tour of East Asia in 2006, the highlight of which was a concert in the National Concert Hall in Taipei with 1500 in attendance. He prepared the Thornton Choral Artists for appearances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra numerous times during his tenure, and he also prepared the Los Angeles Master Chorale for performances of Messiah with the Pasadena Symphony and the Mozart Requiem and Coronation Mass with Mainly Mozart of San Diego.

From 1985-1995 he was the founder-conductor of the California Choral Company, a professional-caliber chamber chorus that attained a fine reputation in Europe as well as in the U.S., where its performance was a highlight of the ACDA national convention in 1991.

He has lectured at Munich’s Hochschule für Musik and appears on occasion as a guest conductor and clinician both in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to appearances with professional choruses in Korea–including the National Chorus, the Pilgrim Mission Choir and the Bucheon City Chorus–he has also worked as guest conductor of the Karlovy Vary Symphony in the Czech Republic. He has performed or given presentations at divisional and national conventions of ACDA eleven times over the years, conducting ensembles from three different institutions, and he was awarded the Judges' Conducting Prize by a panel of ten judges at the 1999 International Choral Competition in Bulgaria. In 2003 the Thornton School awarded him the first annual Dean’s Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, and he was also the 2007 recipient of the coveted Ramo Music Faculty Award, the Thornton School’s highest honor, "in recognition of his outstanding contribution to music and education, to the School of Music and the University of Southern Californa, and to humanity." He is author of the increasingly popular books Chorus Confidential and A Matter of Choice: Interpreting Choral Music, as well as past president and one of four founding officers of the National Collegiate Choral Organization, which held its first biennial national conference in San Antonio in November, 2006.

 Dr. Dehning holds the B.A. degree in music education from UCLA, where he sang with Roger Wagner and Paul Salamunivich,  and the M.M. and D.M.A. degrees in church music from USC, where he was a student of Charles Hirt, James Vail, Ingolf Dahl, and Halsey Stevens.  During his collegiate career he attained a reputation as a clear, evocative conductor, an efficient, enjoyable rehearsal technician, and an insightful, informed interpreter.

William Dehning, DMA, conductor/consultant
Emeritus Professor of Choral Music,
University of Southern California

Past President-Founding Officer,
National Collegiate Choral Organization

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