Stoney, William (1920-2014) | Special Collections of the ODU Libraries
William Shannon Stoney was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1920 and was raised in Anniston, Alabama. He was the son of James Moss Stoney and Mary Clifton (Roberts) Stoney. Mary died when her son, William, was a young boy. His father, an Episcopal bishop, subsequently married Nora Louisa Green who helped raise William and his two brothers. When he was about eight years old Nora Stoney arranged for her cousin, Irma Green, to give William piano lessons. He later won a piano scholarship to the Birmingham Conservatory of Music in Anniston and continued to take private piano lessons, although his parents stopped the private lessons after two years because they thought he was too involved with music. However, he continued to practice on his own and played at his father's church.
In 1942 Stoney obtained a bachelor's degree in piano from the Birmingham Conservatory of Music. That same year he joined the Air Force and served in Italy and Japan. In 1948 he graduated from Yale with a Bachelor of Music in Piano. In 1952, a week after he obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, where he studied with Philip Greeley Clapp, Stoney was notified that he had fulfilled the requirements for a Master's Degree in Music from Harvard. He studied with Randall Thompson at Harvard. Major influences on his music include Bach, Ravel, Debussy, Poulenc, Stravinsky, Hindemith, Schoenberg, and the Japanese pentatonic scale.
From 1952 through 1954 he taught music theory and piano at two colleges in Minnesota. In 1955 he taught for a year in Naples, Italy followed by a year in Hounslow, England. From 1957 to 1962 he was a member of the faculty at Central Missouri State College where, in addition to music theory and piano, he taught organ and even designed a pipe organ. He was hired at Virginia's Hampton University as department chair, choir director and professor of music theory and composition in 1963. He taught an introduction to music, piano, harmony, counterpoint, form and analysis, history, and composition there until he retired in 1985. He was a founding member and the first president of the Tidewater Composers' Guild, an organization concerned with fostering the composition, publication, and performance of new music among local composers. William Stoney died on December 28, 2014.