Each year, the five academic divisions of UC Santa Cruz—Arts, Baskin School of Engineering, Humanities, Social Sciences, and Physical and Biological Sciences—select a former graduate/a/i student as their Honored graduate student. The awards ceremony for the 2022 cohort will take place on April 23 during the graduate weekend.
UC Santa Cruz alumnus and bandleader William Long (BA Music ’11, MA Music ’13) has been passionate about music since the age of six. Carrying on that passion through high school and through his years at UCSC, Long now finds himself on international stages directing opera and symphony productions for award-winning composers.
Long was named a Distinguished Alumni of the Arts Division of UC Santa Cruz, a honor given to a former graduate/a/i student by academic division.
“I’m honored because I feel like UC Santa Cruz has done a lot for me,” Long said. “It means a lot to be recognized by the university.
After graduating from UCSC with a BA in Music and a Masters of Music with a concentration in cAs a conductor, Long immediately began his professional career as assistant conductor at the Parallel Opera House in San Francisco. He prepared productions of Jake Heggie walking dead manby Terence Blanchard Championand much more.
Long said her first steps into the professional music industry wouldn’t have been possible without former UCSC ensemble director Nicole Payment. A close mentor to Long, Payment was the artistic director of the Parallel Opera of San Francisco and landed Long his first job as an assistant conductor in the music industry.
“I learned a lot watching her and working with her, and then she opened the door for me in the professional world,” Long said. “She was the springboard for my whole career. I don’t think any of this would have happened without her.
After gaining additional experience in San Francisco, Long worked with Washington National Opera, Opera Theater of St. Louis, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera and is currently based in London as Cover Conductor for the London Symphony Orchestra.
In 2019, Long conducted the world premiere of the famous jazz and film trumpeter opera by composer Terence Blanchard Fire locked in my bones at the Opera Theater Saint Louis.
“Conduct Fire was a life changing event for me,” Long said. “Not only was it my first time leading a production of this level, it was also the world premiere of a play that explored stories and experiences that are not often represented on the opera stage.
Long said he didn’t get a full score until the first day of rehearsal.
“We continued to tweak the track to the opening, cut scenes, add new scenes, change vocal lines and change the orchestration. It was a very collaborative effort which is my favorite part of making music and the main why I wanted to become a conductor. I am honored to have played a helped bring such an important work of art to life.
Create a passion from an early age
As a child, Long was fond of TV shows and movies like Looney Tunes, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones, which caught his attention not through typical means, but for the use of classical music in their soundtracks.
Fascinated by classical music from an early age, Long asked his mother to play the piano lessons at the age of six. He continued the lessons throughout his school years and joined his high school orchestra program in Half Moon Bay, where he grew up.
It was at a festival of high school jazz bands held at UC Santa Cruz’s Music Hall that Long fell in love with the university’s campus and music department facilities.
“To be honest, UC Santa Cruz wasn’t even on my radar,” he said. “But, after that visit where we played in the recital hall, I saw the view from the music building overlooking Monterey Bay and I thought, ‘wow, I really want to be here.'”
For current UCSC music students, Long stresses the importance of taking advantage of tools made available by the Music Department. As a student, Long took part in the orchestral, operatic and choral programs and performed chamber music, served as accompanist in the string and wind studios and even took singing lessons.
“There are a lot of other people who want to do what you want to do as well,” Long said. “It’s partly just be in the right place at the right time, but you also have to be prepared for when that an opportunity presents itself for you to seize and put your best foot forward. UC Santa Cruz played a key role in preparing me to seize all opportunities.
Currently based in London, Long plans to return to the West Coast in August and will work on the world premiere of John Adams’ new opera Antony and Cleopatrawhich will premiere at the San Francisco Opera in September 2022. Long will not be able to attend the 2022 grad weekend as he will be working on a production of Carmen at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.