Just in: President Clinton's chief conductor is dead

Just in: President Clinton's chief conductor is dead


norman lebrecht

January 08, 2012

William Francis McBeth, professor of music at Ouachita Baptist University, died on January 6 aged 78. He was the first composer laureate of the state of Arkansas and the first in the US to hold such a title. Tribute here.

He also conducted the Arkansas All-State Band in which a 15 year-old Bill Clinton played in the tenor saxophone section.

Here’s one of his symphony orchestra works, a formidable piece called Kaddish.



  • Mark Powell says:

    Somber news. Francis McBeth was a delight to work with – charming, possessed of an incredible dry wit, an inspirational teacher, a brilliant composer for winds and brass, and just a fun person to be around. We would all do well to spread the kind of goodwill that was integral to his everyday way of being.

  • Brian says:

    Thank you, Norman, for mentioning one of the giants of the wind band world–and probably the last of his generation. As a student during the 70s, I performed a large number of McBeth’s works more or less hot off the press. Now as a music director of the new millennium, I continue to champion many of his works, which can still sound as fresh as when they were composed.

    Mr. McBeth was truly one of the gentlemen of our profession and one whose myriad works for the medium are all too often forgotten for the “newest and hottest (quite the opposite of the orchestral repertoire). In a letter that I wrote to Mrs. McBeth two years ago (after his stroke) she expressed his appreciation that people were still performing his music. The thought of a wind band world without the works of Francis McBeth would be a tragedy.