Billy Childs was born on March 8, 1957 in Los Angeles. His parents were both teachers in the Los Angeles school district, and they encouraged their son to play the piano they had in their home. At age 6, Childs began taking structured piano lessons, but he wasn't interested in studying music until several years later, when he was sent to boarding school. While there, he began to devote himself to the piano "out of sheer boredom."
Childs continued studying piano and learning tunes on his own, and at 16 was accepted into the Community School for the Performing Arts, a music preparatory school affiliated with the University of Southern California. He later attended USC and graduated with a BA in music composition.
His jazz education was cemented after six years with Freddie Hubbard's band; Childs wasted no time launching his own solo career with a series of four albums on the Windham Hill Jazz label. After leaving Windham Hill, he released his 1995 album, I've Known Rivers, on longtime friend Chick Corea's Stetch label. That album included the first of several Grammy nominations to come, and in 2006, Childs won a Grammy for best instrumental composition for "Into the Light."
In addition to sideman gigs that include work with Joe Locke, Grover Washington Jr., Donald Harrison and Delfeayo Marsalis, Childs is an in-demand conductor and arranger for the likes of Claudia Acuna, Chris Botti and Diane Reeves. Childs has also received more than a dozen commissions for ensembles — including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the American Brass Quintet, Kronos Quartet and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra — and he was awarded a 2009 Guggenheim fellowship for music composition. In 2010, Childs released Autumn: In Moving Pictures — Jazz/Chamber Music, Vol. 2 through ArtistShare.
On this episode of Piano Jazz, Billy Childs stops by to perform a set including the standards "Alone Together," "You Don't Know What Love Is" and "Straight No Chaser." He also performs his original, "Hope in the Face of Despair," inspired by Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus: A Survivor's Tale, as well as his arrangement of "Scarborough Fair."
Originally recorded Apr. 11, 2006. Originally broadcast Oct. 17, 2006.