Strickland was born in Defiance, Ohio, on January 25, 1914. He served as guest conductor for the Cathedral Choral Society of Washington, D.C. during World War II. In 1946 he helped found and went on to conduct the Nashville Symphony for five seasons, from 1946 to 1951. Later Strickland conducted the Oratorio Society of New York.
He was noted for his performances and recordings of contemporary works by American composers such as Samuel Barber, John J. Becker, Jack Beeson, William Bergsma, John Alden Carpenter, Henry Cowell, Norman Dello Joio, Vivian Fine, William Flanagan, Miriam Gideon, Irwin Heilner, Alan Hovhaness, Mary Howe, Charles Ives, Frederick Jacobi, Werner Josten, Homer Keller, Harrison Kerr, Edward MacDowell, Douglas Moore, Horatio Parker, Julia Perry, Walter Piston, Wallingford Riegger, Richard Rodgers, Carl Ruggles, Roger Sessions, Louise Talma, Francis Thorne, Lester Trimble, David Van Vactor, Robert Ward, and Elinor Remick Warren. He also conducted and recorded in Iceland, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and Japan.
The William Strickland papers are held by the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1991, a bequest from his estate helped to establish the William R. Strickland Commission Endowment Fund, which assists in the sponsorship of new musical compositions.
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