The Robert S. Duncanson Society of the Taft Museum of Art presented William Owen Menefield, jazz pianist and student in composition at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), as the 2002 Duncanson Artist-in-Residence November 3–17. Named for Robert S. Duncanson (1821–1872), the African American painter of the murals at the Taft Museum of Art, the artist-in-residence program seeks to recognize outstanding African Americans in all fields of artistic endeavor.
A native Cincinnatian, Menefield began his music studies at the age of five in Suzuki violin at Schiel Primary School for Arts Enrichment. He later studied cello for nine years with Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra cellist Norman Johns. Primarily self-taught on piano, Menefield served as the pianist for the Shroder Paideia Middle School Choir from the age of 12 through the end of his junior year of high school. From 1996 to 1998 he served as principal cellist for the School for Creative and Performing Arts Orchestra and for the Seven Hills Sinfonietta.
Menefield’s debut album, Big Will Leaps In, was released in the spring of 1999 on the J-Curve Records label, a Cincinnati company. The jazz piano album later reached number 13 on the national Gavin Jazz Charts.
Menefield has performed at many venues locally including the Aronoff Center for the Arts, where he initiated the Cincinnati Arts Association’s Emerging Artist Concert Series; the Cincinnati Art Museum; the Phoenix; and Music Hall.
He is the recipient of numerous awards and scholarships including the Corbett-Mayerson Scholarship Award in 1997; a scholarship to Capital University Conservatory of Music in Cleveland, where he studied for a year; a grant from the Otto M. Budig Family Foundation; and a scholarship from the Jazz Club of Sarasota. In February 1997, at the age of 16, Menefield became the youngest recipient of an Applause Magazine Imagemaker Award.
Menefield is a dean’s list student majoring in music composition at CCM and currently serves as music director of the Inspirational Vocal Music Ensemble at Carmel Presbyterian Church.
Menefield is thrilled to have been selected as the Duncanson Artist-in-Residence. “I strongly support the mission of the Robert S. Duncanson Society. In fact, I have undertaken a similar, small-scale pursuit on my own. I have presented three workshops at local public schools, where I introduced children to jazz and taught them how it relates to contemporary popular music.” Menefield added, “I am looking forward to the opportunity to inspire other young people through the powerful language of music.”