William A. Dresden Memorial Piano Scholarship Fund established

William A. Dresden 1930-2020


William A. Dresden, pianist and teacher and long-time resident of Winnetka, IL., died peacefully on May 22, 2020. He had been in declining health since suffering a stroke in 2017. A graduate of Yale University, Mr. Dresden was an internationally esteemed pianist who had been a member of the faculty of the Music Institute of Chicago for over 40 years.

Mr. Dresden was born in Detroit on March 5, 1930 to William and Ethel (Baker) Dresden. He began playing the piano at an early age, and as a youth inspired to become a concert pianist. He graduated from Yale with advanced degrees in music, and began a life of concertizing across the U.S., Europe, Cuba, and China and the Far East. Mr. Dresden was enamored always with languages and literature, and he spoke and read widely in French, German, and Russian. His latest enthusiasm was Chinese and Chinese culture and cuisine. Teaching piano was among the important facets of his musical life, and many of his students became faithful friends with “Bill" as he was affectionally known. Another central focus for Mr. Dresden was the music of his beloved Beethoven, which he included in almost every concert that he played. The thought that he might one day be able to play this music again sustained him in his last days.

Bill had an unquenchable passion for life, no matter the circumstances, and he held on to it tenaciously until the end. He was the one that everyone wanted at any gathering. With his charm and debonair wit, his playing of the piano, whether the classics, jazz, or American standard popular songs—especially George Gershwin and Cole Porter – Bill had that special spark that inspired everyone. He was a noble soul beloved by all who knew him, the gentlest of spirits, and the most generous-hearted. No one could ever recall hearing him say an unkind word about anyone. All the vivid memories of Bill will be cherished and everlasting.

He is survived by an aunt, Martha Baker Radley of Scottsdale, Az., her extended family, and countless devoted friends and colleagues. A memorial celebration of Bill’s life will be held at a future date at the Music Institute of Chicago.

Legacy Celebrations and Scholarship Fund established in Bill's Honor

A memorial celebration of his life will be held at a future date at the Music Institute of Chicago. Donations are requested to be made to the William Dresden Scholarship Fund at the Music Institute of Chicago, where a piano scholarship fund has been established. 

Remembrances of Bill

In the pictures above, from left to right:  

Picture 1:  Bill, pictured with the late Pauline Colbert (left) and Susan Charles, voice faculty member at the Music Institute.  This picture was taken after a concert in the 1980's, where Bill and Susan performed selections of music by George Gershwin and Cole Porter.  Pauline was a prominent member of the Women’s Board of the Music Center, now the Music Institute of Chicago for many years.  


Susan Charles:  "It is beautiful [the picture], capturing the dashing person that he was.  We miss him dreadfully!"



Picture 2:  Bill, taken at the Michigan Shores Club, with Barbara Martin, Voice Department Chair at the Music Institute of Chicago.  Bill and Barbara just performed their Cole Porter Cabaret.


Barbara Martin:  "A wonderful memory of his artistry, humor, brilliance & friendship. This is the Bill I will always cherish!"