Obituary: William Kraft, LA Phil percussionist, composer, conductor, 98

Posted on: February 22, 2022

William Kraft, a percussionist, composer, conductor and educator who played a long and indispensable role in making Los Angeles a world capital of new music, died Saturday,” writes Mark Swed in Thursday’s (2/17) Los Angeles Times. “His wife, composer Joan Huang, says the cause was heart failure. He was 98…. He took full advantage of the varied opportunities unique to the musical life in Los Angeles, which included a decades-long career with the Los Angeles Philharmonic as percussionist, principal timpanist, composer-in-residence and associate conductor. He was the founding conductor of the L.A. Phil New Music Group, which, with its Green Umbrella concerts, helped transform the notion of what a modern orchestra could become…. He … became Igor Stravinsky’s go-to percussionist. He befriended and gave the premieres of major works by many of the leading avant-gardists … Kraft began his career as an orchestra percussionist with the Dallas Symphony in 1954 and then joined the L.A. Phil a year later…. The Los Angeles Percussion Ensemble and Chamber Players [which he founded] promoted a wide range of new and recent percussion music … In 1966, he conducted the L.A. Phil in what became a historic Duke Ellington program at the Hollywood Bowl, with Ellington as the soloist … The final two [L.A. Phil] concerts Kraft attended were as recently as January.”