The American pianist and composer, William Doppmann, began piano lessons at age 5 in Louisville, Kentucky, continued intensive study at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music through his high school years. He made his solo debut with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra at the age of 10 and again as a high scoool senior, and was the veteran of over 500 performances by the time he entered college. He studied piano with Goldsand in Cincinnati and, after entering the University of Michigan, with Dexter. He studied composition at the Cincinnati Conservatory with Carl Hugo Grimm and later, with Homer Keller and Ross Lee Finney at the University of Michigan. In 1954, during his sophomore year at the University of Michigan, he won two of America's most coveted awards for young artists, the Walter W. Naumburg Award in New York and the Michaels Memorial Award in Chicago - the only musician ever to have won both prizes in a single season. Of his Michaels Award appearance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia, Claudia Cassidy wrote in the Daily Tribune: "Ravinia was blissfully cool last night after the downtown furnace, but I wouldn't have missed it had the thermometer boiled over. For a debut boiled over, which is more unusual and a lot more important." Choosing the Samuel Barber piano sonata to conclude his Naumburg debut recital in Town Hall, Mr. Doppmann was warmly congratulated backstage by the composer himself. The New York Herald Tribune reflected Barber's enthusiasm the following day: "It is not exaggeration to state that Mr. Doppmann's performance of the Barber sonata was one of the most lucid, authentic and literally spine-tingling in this reviewer's memory. Everything was there: The hard-driven angularity, the whimsy, the diablerie, the snatches of wistfulness, the special sort of color one finds nowhere else. But beyond these things, one sensed a species of comprehension that can only be 'bred in the bone'."
After a year of independent study in New York City (funded by a Martha Baird Rockefeller grant) and participation in the Marlboro Music Festival at Rudolf Serkin's invitation, William Doppmann was inducted into the army and spent two years stationed in France and Germany. On his return to the USA, family responsibilities necessitated accepting a series of academic positions from 1960 until 1973, during which time he was professor of music and artist-in-residence at three major universities. For the next twelve years, he resided in the Pacific Northwest, allowing time to raise his children, to explore his potential as a composer and to further his artistic development as a pianist. Donal Henahan (New York Times) commented aptly in 1982, "What happens to all those gifted youngsters who win piano competitions and blaze across the skies for a few seasons before our keenest instruments lose track of them? Some, like William Doppmann, who gave his first New York recital in ten years Monday night in Alice Tully Hall, continue to work at the task of becoming interesting artists."
"Once in a great while there comes an artist whose performance defies description or superlatives, and who by choice of a program and means of execution creates the aura of pure music. Just such an event took place yesterday afternoon at the Phillips Gallery. The man's name is William Doppmann. He is a pianist giant." Thus wrote Charles Crowder in the Washington Post after William Doppmann's first solo recital in Washington D.C. - an example of the high critical acclaim that has characterized his playing career. Doppmann has concertized in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Europe, South America and the Far East as recitalist and as soloist with major orchestras including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Houston Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Orchestra and Tokyo Symphony, and at numerous festivals including Marlboro, Cleveland's Blossom Festival, Ravinia in Chicago, the Hong Kong International Festival, Chamber Music Northwest and the Kuhmo International Festival in Finland.
William Doppmann has actively pursued the dual role of composer-pianist throughout his life. In order to combine his two careers in an environment of maximum challenge and professional opportunity, he moved back to New York in 1985. His performance the next season (1986) exhibited the penetrating insight of a composer which was remarked upon by the Times critic Tim Page. "William Doppmann's piano recital Thursday night at Alice Tully Hall was one of the season's most distinctive. Mr. Doppmann is also a composer, and he plays like one - re-creating whatever music he chooses to play, with freshness and originality. This listener was delighted to encounter such a strong musical vision." Perhaps the best description of Doppmann's appeal as a performer was given by a Portland critic in 1986. "Mr. Doppmann addresses his instrument ebulliently. His mobile features telegraph the music's moods. His playing has much of the orchestral power he admires in the recordings of Rachmaninoff and seems the more telling for a touch of un-Russian reticence. He commands the elusive touch that makes a Steinway sing in gratitude. It is the work of a man for whom music is life made audible."
In 1980 William Doppmann was the first composer to be awarded a Performing Arts Grant by the Washington State Arts Commission, who also commissioned, along with Tacoma’s Second City Chamber Series, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, a ballet for chamber orchestra and narrator. During the ensuing decade, he had a number of new works performed and was also the recipient of several competitive grants and awards. Two National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Consortium Grants involving six separate performing ensembles were awarded in 1983 and 1986 respectively. He was chosen as a Guggenheim Fellow in 1987 and in 1988 he received the University of Michigan's distinguished Alumni Citation of Merit. He has been an annual recipient of an ASCAP Special Awards since 1993. Doppmann was the piano soloist in the world premiere of his Counterpoints with the Orchestra of Illinois in 1987. The New York premiere of his solo work Distances . . . was presented on his 1982 Alice Tully Hall recital which was the first of an ongoing series, "A Pianist-Composer Looks at Pianist-Composers". The second concert in this series was presented in 1986. Recent residencies in Texas and Tacoma have seen the premieres of Seven Duets for Two Violins (2002), and Swordplay (2004), tone poem for full orchestra. Doppmann was the recipient of a Composer Assistance Grant from the American Music Center this past summer. (2004).
Active in commissioning new music for piano by other composers, William Doppmann most recently premiered James Yannatos' Concerto for Piano and Orchestra with the Sarasota Symphony and a recording of the work with the Harvard/Radcliffe Symphony was released on Albany Records in 1998. The Concerto for Piano and Chamber Orchestra, written for him by Thomas Wells, was premiered in Columbus by Pro Musica in 1991.
William Doppmann served as Artistic Director of “Chamber Music at Port Townsend” on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state for 25 years. Most recently, he collaborated with the Jupiter Symphony and conductor Jens Nygaard in Sergei Rachmaninov’s First Piano Concerto and performed in the Naumburg Foundation’s presentation of former Naumburg Prize winners at Alice Tully Hall.
William Doppmann’s recordings have beissued on the Nonesuch, Delos and Finland's Kuhmo Festival Recording labels. About Albany Recordings’ 1998 release (JamesYannatos Concerto with Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra), Stephen Ellis in Fanfare Magazine commented: “William Doppmann is an exceptional pianist, one of the great unheralded keyboard artists of our day”. Praise for Four American Piano Sonatas, released on CD by Equilibrium Recordings in November 1999, has been widespread and is typified by Stuart Hamilton’s (CBC) comment, “The performance is profoundly musical, the virtuosity stupefying.” The 2004 release of :”Goldberg Variations: J.S. Bach, A View From The 21st Century” (Divers Inc. release) has similarly been received (“A marvelous explanation of this great work”, Maurice Hinson). His next recording “Transitions...” with works by S. Rachmaninov, Debussy, Franz Liszt, Béla Bartók was released by Divers Publishing in June 2006. A Two-Piano recording with Willa Doppmann was released by Second City Chamber Series (works by S. Rachmaninov, W.A. Mozart, Lutoslawski, Debussy-Ravel) in 2002.
In recent seasons, a number of Doppmann works received their premieres in various locations: Fantasy I (1995) and Fantasy II (1997) are the first two of a set of four works for solo piano loosely based on extended one-movement works of Frédéric Chopin; Toccata (1997), a short work for solo piano; Seven Duets for Two Violins (2001); Elegy for solo cello (1999); Swordplay for orchestra and solo clarinet, piano, and violin. A recording of his song cycle Springsongs (1981) was released in 2004 with mezzo-soprano Lucy Shelton and the 20th Century Consort (Innova).