Shields-Collins “Buddy” Bray has been artistic consultant for the Cliburn since 2003. For the last 20 years he has shown his longstanding commitment to new music, hosting concerts spotlighting living American composers such as William Bolcom, John Corigliano, Ricky Ian Gordon, Jennifer Higdon, Jake Heggie, Kevin Puts, Ned Rorem, and Ben Moore. With music educator John Feierabend, Buddy created the Cliburn in the Classroom curriculum for second-, third-, and fourth-graders; now, after almost two decades of serving as writer, narrator, host, and sometimes-pianist at these uniquely interactive programs, he continues to be heavily involved in an advisory role.
A skilled commentator and interviewer, Buddy hosted the large-scale webcast of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in June 2022. During the pandemic he also served as host and artistic consultant for the Cliburn’s digital series, Cliburn Masterpiece and Cliburn Kids.
Buddy has been principal keyboardist of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra since 1986, and has hosted the orchestra’s pre-concert discussion series Symphonic Insights since 1993. He has performed many times as soloist with orchestra, most recently in Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, a work with which he has had a long association. He has also appeared as soloist with the Dallas and Jacksonville Symphony Orchestras, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Kennedy Center Opera Orchestra, and in Miguel Harth-Bedoya’s “The Passion of the Tango” with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl.
Buddy was born in Mississippi and grew up in northeastern Louisiana. He studied there with Donald Cornell, and later with Steven De Groote at Arizona State University and TCU.