McCauley, William (Alexander). Composer, arranger, conductor, trombonist, pianist, administrator, b Tofield, near Edmonton, 14 Feb 1917, d Alliston, Ont, 18 May 1999; ATCM 1947, B MUS (Toronto) 1947, M MUS (ESM, Rochester) 1959, DMA (ESM, Rochester) 1960. He studied piano in Tofield and Edmonton and at 16 formed a dance band that worked locally and was broadcast on CFRN, Edmonton. He began studies at the TCM in 1936 and worked 1936-40 as an arranger, pianist, and trombonist with Horace Lapp. After RCAF service 1940-5 as a bandsman, pilot, and flight instructor, and later as assistant bandmaster of the Toronto Manning Pool Band, he returned to the TCM, played in the Harmony Symphony Orchestra, and worked with Trump Davidson, Art Hallman, and Ellis McLintock. His TCM teachers included Healey Willan (composition), Leo Smith (harmony), Margaret Parsons (piano), and Harry Hawe and Rudolph Baumler (trombone). Briefly music director, 1947-9, at Ottawa Technical High School, he was music director 1949-57 at Crawley Films, composing and arranging scores for more than 100 films (see also Film scores). He also was principal trombone with the NFB and Ottawa Philharmonic orchestras. After further studies in composition at the ESM with Alan Hovhaness, Bernard Rogers, and Howard Hanson and in conducting (in Maine) with Pierre Monteux, he was house music director 1960-87 of the O'Keefe Centre in Toronto. Concurrently, he was music director 1961-9 at York University, the York University Choir under his direction won the 1967 City of Lincoln Trophy. The centennial year also saw performances of McCauley's Fantasy on Canadian Folk Songs on Parliament Hill, and of Plus One at Expo '67. As well, McCauley was music director at Seneca College 1970-8 and conductor of the North York Symphony Orchestra 1972-88. After retirement, he stayed on as conductor emeritus and member of the board.
In his career, McCauley composed the scores for more than 125 films, some of which he also conducted. He also wrote music for commercials, and conducted around 200 recording sessions for films, television, and recordings. Highlights of his film music include the score for the CBC-TV series The Whiteoaks of Jalna (1972), and for the feature films The Neptune Factor (1973), Sunday in the Country (1973), and It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time (1975). McCauley also wrote the score for the CBC-TV historical drama Riel (1979). With his son Matthew, McCauley composed the score for the 1979 feature film City on Fire. In 1998, SOCAN honoured William McCauley with its first Lifetime Achievement Award for Film and Television Music.
Early in his career McCauley developed the adaptable and eclectic style necessary for incidental composition, and he remained a composer without a school. Folk tunes figure in several of his orchestral works, as do elements of jazz. The Five Miniatures for Flute and Strings (1958) and the Concerto Grosso (1973), both neoclassical, are lyrical and rhythmic. In his music generally dissonance is counteracted by appealing rhythms, cohesive counterpoint, and an uncomplicated sense of direction. Some of his short piano pieces have been used as pedagogical material. Several of his concert works, especially Five Miniatures for Flute and Strings, have been recorded. In the 1990s, McCauley continued to work as a freelance composer and conductor. He was an associate of the Canadian Music Centre.