The American baritone, William K. Parker, saw his first opera when he was a 17-year-old AFS exchange student in West Germany. The experience changed his life. Returning to the USA, he entered Princeton University where he earned a degree in Germanic languages and literature. He was a college senior before he took his first voice lesson. He learned the vocal arts with two master singers, Rosa Ponselle and Pierre Bernac. He won major singing competitions in France, Germany, and Canada, but the turning point in his career came in 1980 when he won first prize in the Kennedy Center- Rockefeller Foundation International Competition for Excellence in the Performance of American Music.
The New York City Opera baritone was one of America’s most versatile singers, equally at home on the opera stage, as soloist with major orchestras, and as a song recitalist. He has appeared in major roles with the New York City Opera and the opera companies of Pittsburgh, Tulsa, Miami, Boston, Washington (D.C.), Baltimore, and Santa Fe. Orchestral engagements have included the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, among others. Widely recognized as one of the finest song recitalist of his generation, William Parker has concertized throughout the USA and brought American Art Song to Canada, England, Portugal, France, Holland, Germany, Iceland, and the former Soviet Union. He was best known for his comedy roles in opera. He performed several times at the Baldwin-Wallace College Bach Festival several times (1987-1988).
Wiiliam Parker was honoured by the Butler Rotary Club and the Butler Symphony Association as a "native son." He wore the medal he received on a ribbon around his neck during concert performances. Parker spent the last years of his life working on a project he conceived and organized, called ‘AIDS Quilt Songbook’. A song cycle by nearly 20 of today’s most important song composers; the songs set texts of poetry about people who are suffering from, or have died of, AIDS. The work, which was to benefit a New York housing organization for homeless AIDS victims, was being premiered in Alice Tully Hall in June 1992. William Parker died of AIDS in 1993 at the age of 49.