Will Meredith: Watching It All Grow
by Chris Parker
Dr. William Meredith was born in New Jersey and grew up immersed in music from a young age—and has continued to immerse himself throughout his adult life as a mentor and educator.
As a child, he participated in the children’s choir in church and played in the school band. He began playing trumpet, then gradually made his way through the brass section down to tuba.
Learning piano as a teen, he was introduced to Beethoven’s work with the first movement of Moonlight Sonata. As he put it, “Beautiful, but nothing too difficult.” Even so, Beethoven’s works left a lasting impression on him and later became one of his primary areas of expertise.
Meredith continued to pursue his passion after high school, studying music education in Alabama and completing his graduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He supplemented this education by serving as choral conductor and soloist at nearby churches.
While studying in North Carolina, Meredith was awarded the German Academic Exchange Service Grant to gain firsthand experience with Beethoven’s handwritten works and archives in West Berlin and Bonn, Germany. This unique opportunity left Meredith with a deep appreciation for giving students the chance to study original sources in person, an idea that he would carry into his future roles in music education.
In 1985, he secured a faculty position and the directorship of the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at San José State University. He moved to San José the day after turning in his dissertation on Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 30 in E Major (op. 109).
In 2015, Dr. Meredith marked his thirtieth year with the university, and he continues to have a profound impact on students and non-students alike. Since his arrival, he has helped shape the music education of San José State’s students, crafting the music history curriculum to best serve both the students and the material taught.
As director of the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies, Dr. Meredith oversees a collection of over 30,000 items, including scholarly works, first edition manuscripts, and five period instruments: one harpsichord, one clavichord, and three fortepianos.
Musicians are allowed to play on the instruments to further their understanding of the subjects and give new context to classical works. Meredith refers to these instruments as “little time machines” and cannot stress enough their importance to the Center. “You can hear them and see them,” he says.
Meredith currently organizes concerts and events for the Beethoven Center, including lectures and tours that are open to the public, in order to spread the richness of Beethoven’s work and legacy with as many people as possible. He also edits the Beethoven Journal, a twice-yearly academic periodical featuring essays, reviews, auction reports, and current events for Beethoven lovers and scholars.
Meredith’s warm, inviting personality lends a familiar and friendly air to his teaching, making the material seem much less intimidating to a casual audience.
When asked about stand-out moments in his thirty-year run with the Center and the university, Meredith responded, “Watching it all grow!”
For Dr. Meredith, “Inspiration happens every week.” For San José State’s students and faculty, and for visitors of the Beethoven Center, that inspiration has happened for three decades. This summer the Beethoven Center will celebrate thirty years of vibrant programming, and we ask you to support the Center and the gala event. Please contact Dr. Meredith or staff at the Center to learn more.