At age six, Billy Childs was enrolled in piano lessons by his parents and developed rapidly; by age sixteen he entered the Community School of the Performing Arts, a preparatory music program sponsored by the University of Southern California. Although the initial focus of his energies had been piano performance, he shifted his attention to composition. In 1975, he entered USC as a composition major, graduating four years later with a bachelor of music in composition under the tutelage of Robert Linn.
After having played and apprenticed with Freddie Hubbard for six years (1978-1984), Childs solo jazz recording career began in 1988, when he released Take For Example, This., the first of four critically acclaimed albums on the Windham Hill Jazz label. He followed that album with Twilight Is Upon Us (1989), His April Touch (1992), and Portrait Of A Player (1993). A long friendship with Chick Corea resulted in Chicks asking Billy to join his new (at the time) label, Stretch Records, upon Childs departure from Windham Hill Jazz. His next album, Ive Known Rivers on Stretch/GRP (now Stretch/Concord) was released in 1995. Childs then followed with The Child Within, released on the Shanachie record label in 1996. In two years (1996 & 1997), Childs was nominated three times for a Grammy award; twice for Best Instrumental Composition (1996 - The Starry Night from Ive Known Rivers and 1997 - Aarons Song from The Child Within ) and once for Best Performance by a Jazz Group (1997 - The Child Within). In 2002, Childs received a fourth Grammy nomination in the category of Best Arrangment Accompanying a Vocalist for his arrangement of Fascinating Rhythm on The Calling - Celebrating Sarah Vaughn (Dianne Reeves). Most recently, Childs Jazz-Chamber Ensemble was awarded a sizeable grant by Chamber Music America to perform in a venue of his choosing. Lyric (2005), recorded with that group, received 3 out of the 4 four Grammy nominations awarded to Childs in 2006 (Childs received a fourth nomination for his arranging work on Chris Botti's CD, "To Love Again"). Billy won two Grammys that year for best instrumental composition (Into The Light) and best arrangement accompanying a vocalist ("What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life", along with Gil Goldstein and Heitor Periera).
In early 2004, Childs completed For Suzanne a commissioned composition for the Los Angeles Philharmonic (his second composition for that group - his first, "Tone Poem For Holly" was premiered in 1993). For Suzanne was premiered by Childs, the L. A. Philharmonic, and Dianne Reeves, on January 24, 2004 in the newly constructed Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry. In October 2004 Childs completed The Fierce Urgency Of Now, a musical setting of various texts by Dr. Martin Luther King. It was performed by Childs, Wynton Marsalis, and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra as part of the inaugural concert series for the new Jazz At Lincoln Center facility.
On April 24, 2005, Childs cantata for the Los Angeles Master Chorale entitled The Voices Of Angels was premiered at Walt Disney concert hall. After the performance, Childs, along with soloist, Luciana Souza and conductor, Grant Gershon received a ten minute standing ovation and three curtain calls.
Upcoming commissions include:
American Brass Quintet,
Jazz-Chamber ensemble w/ the Ying Quartet,
Los Angeles Master Chorale,
and The Brass Group