William Barton is Australia’s leading didgeridoo player as well as composer, instrumentalist and vocalist.
William started learning the instrument from his uncle, Arthur Peterson, an elder of the Wannyi, Lardil and Kalkadunga people and was working from an early age with traditional dance groups and fusion/rock jazz bands, orchestras, string quartets, and mixed ensembles.
Throughout his diverse career he has forged a path in the classical musical world, from the London and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras to historic events at Westminster Abbey for Commonwealth Day 2019, at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli and for the Beijing Olympics.
His awards include Winner of Best Original Score for a Mainstage Production at the 2018 Sydney Theatre Awards and Winner of Best Classical Album with an ARIA for Birdsong At Dusk in 2012. In 2021, he was the recipient of the prestigious Don Banks Music Award from the Australia Council.
With his prodigious musicality and building on his Kalkadunga heritage, William has vastly expanded the horizons of the didgeridoo.
“He’s one of the great virtuosos. It’s a sound I had heard before, but never with that sort of technique. The possibilities are extraordinary. This is a great man. He radiates. You watch him and think, this is impressive.” - Sir Simon Rattle, Artistic Director Berliner Philharmoniker
“Barton has an incredible drive, an incredible ambition, but the nicest kind. He’s a model to all indigenous people, to all Australians.” - Peter Sculthorpe, Compose
William Barton left the audience deeply moved by an experience that had touched them to the core. - Vincent Plush, Limelight Magazine
William Barton is widely recognised as Australia’s leading didgeridoo player as well as a highly esteemed composer, instrumentalist and vocalist. He has composed works for didgeridoo and orchestras, string quartets, jazz and rock bands as well as collaborative contributions with some of Australia’s leading composers.
William started learning the instrument from his uncle, Arthur Peterson, an elder of the Wannyi, Lardil and Kalkadunga people. His mother, Delmae Barton, a singer, songwriter and poet who learnt to sing as a small child from listening to the bird calls, also encouraged his love of music leading William to work from an early age with traditional dance groups and fusion/rock jazz bands, orchestras, string quartets, and mixed ensembles.
William’s passion is to create a journey for people through music and present them a diversity of musical styles using the didgeridoo. William utilises his cultural heritage to present his didgeridoo fusion as a storyteller, engaging audiences in the uniqueness of Australia, it’s Aboriginal heritage and to challenge perspectives of the didgeridoo as an instrument. William works closely with classical music and composers to develop and sustain music for the didgeridoo in this environment.
Throughout his diverse career William has forged a path in the classical musical world, with major commissions include writing for members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Sydney Symphony and the Orchestra, Queensland Symphony Orchestra as well as for contemporary dance companies and dancers such as the Leigh Warren and Dancers, which the work Breathe was premiered at both Womadelaide and at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2012. In 2008 the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony committee commissioned William as one of three composers for the Australian segment of the ceremony, which was broadcast to a world wide audience.
A renowned performer, William has performed at historic events including Commonwealth Day 2019 at Westminster Abbey before the Royal Family, at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli, the Bob Hawke State Memorial and International Jazz Day with Herbie Hancock and James Morrison. He has performed as a solo artist as well as collaboratively with orchestras, string quartets and mixed ensembles, traditional dance groups and fusion/rock jazz bands performing with his own works, others works and improvisation often inspired by his surrounds at the time.
William has a strong desire to give back to his culture, people and community. One of his greatest enjoyments is his involvement in workshops with schools and children all over Australia, where he teaches the next generation didgeridoo and storytelling.
In 2021 William was the recipient of the prestigious Don Banks Music Award from the Australia Council. His other awards include Winner of Best Original Score for a Mainstage Production at the 2018 Sydney Theatre Awards and Winner of Best Classical Album with an ARIA for Birdsong At Dusk in 2012.
William holds an honorary doctorate degrees from Sydney and Griffith Universities, has released five albums on the ABC Classics label and contributed to several more recordings with notable artists both domestically and internationally.
With his prodigious musicality and building on his Kalkadunga heritage, William has vastly expanded the horizons of the didgeridoo and has inspired composers such as Peter Sculthorpe, Ross Edwards, Elena Kats-Chernin, Matthew Hindson and Liza Lim and others, to write for him.
He is currently developing a new musical language, epitomised in Heartland, in partnership with Aunty Delmae Barton and violinist Véronique Serret.
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