“Edmonia” composer Dr. Bill Banfield previews the opera’s premiere on ‘Arts Engines’

Dr. Bill Banfield and host Aaron Dworkin (IAA 86-88) discussed the process of creating an opera, the joy of collaboration, and more on one of the nation’s most widely viewed arts programs.

Bill Banfield headshot

Composer Bll Banfield

Interlochen Arts Academy visiting artist and Edmonia composer Dr. Bill Banfield recently appeared as a guest on one of the nation’s most widely viewed arts and culture programs, Arts Engines.


During the episode, Dr. Banfield shared insights into the creative process behind his new opera, Edmonia, which will be premiering at Interlochen Center for the Arts on May 3-5, 2024. Dr. Banfield recalled conversations with poet Yusef Komunyakaa that helped spark his growing interest in the life of Black and Indigenous sculptor Edmonia Lewis—and the commission from Toni Morrison that launched the project celebrating the sculptor’s forgotten story.

He also discussed the opera’s journey from libretto to compositions to workshops and production, noting the richly interdisciplinary nature of the process.

“The opera process is very beautiful, because there’s text, there’s story, there’s texture, there’s color, there’s orchestration, and there are songs,” he said. “There’s a sense of the whole creative body being involved in that process.”

Dr. Banfield and host Aaron Dworkin (IAA 86-88) delved into the “through line” which unifies an opera thematically, the importance of creative intention, and the joy of collaborating with other gifted artists.

“Art is about collaboration,” said Dr. Banfield. We lean on each other as artists, and we reference each other, and that’s how we get the art out to the people. I think that’s very important.”

Reaching audiences of more than 100,000 each week, Arts Engines highlights the perspectives of thought leaders and game-changers in the arts, revealing the human stories and real-life experiences of those who power creativity every day. The program is produced in partnership with and distributed by Detroit Public Television, Ovation TV, the Violin Channel, and American Public Media. Previous Interlochen-affiliated guests featured on Arts Engines include Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra conductor Dr. Leslie B. Dunner; flutist Demarre McGill (IAC 89-91); University Musical Society President Emeritus Ken Fischer (IAC/NMC 55, 57-58, 60-62; IAC St 66); and Interlochen Center for the Arts President Trey Devey. Past episodes of Arts Engines are available to watch on-demand on the program’s website and YouTube channel.

Dr. Banfield’s opera Edmonia premieres at Interlochen on May 3-5, 2024. Purchase tickets here.