William Mayer graduated from Yale University and the Mannes College of Music. In addition, he studied composition with Roger Sessions and Otto Luening. His many awards and honors include two NEA grants, a citation from the National Institute for Music Theatre and both Guggenheim and MacDowell Fellowships, as well as grants from the Ford Foundation and the New York and Michigan State Arts Councils. John Vinton, in his "Dictionary of Contemporary Music", cites Mayer's principal influences as Bartok, Stravinsky, Barber and show music, especially the songs of Jerome Kern. "AmeriGrove" adds, "his style is characterized by a contrasting of transparent textures and humorous, highly rhythmic and densely scored passages".