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Alumni Association Honors Bill Hilyard—Music Devotee

Alumni Association Honors Bill Hilyard—Music Devotee

Daniel J King | Dec 1, 2017

William “Bill” Hilyard. Photo by Roger Mastroianni.


If you’ve crossed paths with William "Bill" Hilyard, perhaps at an alumni event, you know his irrepressible spirit and his persistence in singing the praises of OHIO’s music programs. He's been know to become a quick friend in a room full of strangers, which some of you have certainly experienced.

This is a man who convinced the entire OHIO Alumni Association Board to sing together, more than once!

This fall the Ohio University Alumni Association awarded Hilyard, alumni supporter and long time friend, with the 2017 Distinguished Service Award as a steadfast volunteer and devotee to both the School of Music and the University. 

Hilyard, of Lakewood, Ohio, earned his bachelor’s degree in music education in 1967, and spent his career in Cleveland working in arts administration. His work includes contributions as director of development for Cleveland Institute of Music, executive director of Northern Ohio Opera, and director of development for Playhouse Square.

Hilyard generously offered to share his time and thoughts with us and answer a few questions.

Q. Did you really make the entire Alumni Board learn and sing Alma Mater, OHIO?

Hilyard: When I became chair of the Alumni Board, I introduce the idea at the first meeting. As you might expect, there was some cooperation and a fair amount of bewilderment and a few guys who were just not interested. But over the course of two years, nearly everyone got on board and it proved to be a wonderful way to start our meetings. 

Q. Was your journey from studying music education into a career in arts administration a natural progression?

Hilyard: I have had remarkable professional experiences in life—all of which have been in the arts—and that in itself is a joy. I credit the clarinet for giving me every opportunity. Since I have worked in arts administration most of my life, what does that mean? The clarinet provided the path to music education, music education at OHIO provided the path to teaching, and teaching provided the path that eventually lead to arts administration. What's not to love? 

Q. What’s important about arts education, why do you think it’s still relevant today?

Hilyard: In the big picture, young people that are immersed in music excel in academic areas like math, science, and English. That is a proven fact. Music installs discipline, team work, and the need for achievement—to perform a piece of music as well as possible—and since this is a temporal experience, one wants to achieve it over and over. All artistic disciplines engender similar characteristics that transfer to academic endeavors. Arts education may be the most important discipline that is currently not part of STEM (science, technology, English, math). I would prefer to say STEAM: science, technology, English, arts, and math.

Q. What is it about the School of Music that you identify with?

Hilyard: I have such positive memories of my experience at Ohio University's School of Music. The School trained me to be a critical listener, a critical thinker, and to have a broad perspective on all of the arts. This was a gift that I can never repay—but I keep trying.

Q. When did you begin as a board member for the School of Music Society of Alumni and Friends, and what keeps you connected to this work?

Hilyard: I have been involved as a board member for two years. But I have been an advocate for the School of Music for many, many years. As an alumnus, I am grateful for the many opportunities that have come my way as a result of being a music student, and have tried to give back in any way I can. I remain connected because I am eager to help the next generation of young musicians prosper, and achieve success, and experience the great joy of being alumni.  

Q. What do you bring to this position from your long term experience in arts philanthropy? 

Hilyard: Having spent my entire career working in the arts, about a third of which was directly in education, I understand the great need for philanthropic support with not-for-profit organizations. The School of Music is no different than the College of Business or even the College of Fine Arts in terms of need. My lifetime of work gives me a perspective on what is needed financially to be successful and sustain our programs, and some understanding of how to make the case.

The bottom line: I would hope that School of Music alumni would hear our message and participate with a gift—large or small, it really makes no difference. Just make a gift and help us meet our Centennial Challenge by December 31! 

[The Centennial Challenge is a fundraising effort in honor of the 100th anniversary of the School of Music, organized by the School of Music Society of Alumni and Friends. Participate here.]

Q. Nearly two years in, what has been your experience serving as board member on the Ohio University Foundation?

Hilyard: My experience on the Ohio University Foundation has been remarkable. And although there are many priorities for the University, there is great interest in the music program and the arts overall. That may be partly because I continually talk about the arts and their value to the University. When we attend events at the Kennedy Museum, or a dramatic production at Tantrum Theater, or something at Alden Library, there is great enthusiasm and interest. Let's hope there is growing financial support for the fine arts at OHIO.

Q. What would you say to younger alumni who are looking for a way to reconnect with OHIO and or the School of Music?

Hilyard: Regarding younger alumni, I have been surprised to learn that connecting with the School of Music is such a great challenge. The School gave us a path, a musical path that should be joyous. So I take this opportunity to encourage all alumni to re-engage, to get involved, and to give back. Be part of the shared experience of music and alumni. The School needs the support of all of us!

Q. What have you been listening to recently, either live or recorded?

Hilyard: Playlists? This could be lengthy because I listen to a bunch. I am a jazz fan, I love classical music (I go to the Cleveland Orchestra often), and a Broadway musical fan (Hamilton!). Let's get back to jazz—that’s where it’s at for me. Memorable recent concerts include Ben Sidran and Richie Cole at Nighttown in Cleveland, as well as Waitress (the musical) at Playhouse Square in Cleveland.



School of Music Centennial Challenge banner

First, you may be aware that the Ohio University School of Music is celebrating its 100th anniversary—that’s one hundred years of training great educators, professional musicians, composers, music therapists, and more.

The School of Music Society of Alumni and Friends board is working hard to raise $10,000 for the School of Music by the end of the calendar year 2017. An anonymous commitment from a donor to match gifts dollar-for-dollar up to $5,000 means we have to raise $5,000 to reach our $10,000 goal. A gift of any size is welcomed and very much appreciated, but the timeline is tight: your gift to the School of Music must be made by December 31st.  CONTRIBUTE TODAY



Read more stories from the Fall 2017 Music Alumni Newsletter.

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