William Billings is regarded as the first American choral composer. William Billings was born in (and died in) Boston, Massachusetts. At the age of 14, the death of his father stopped Billings' formal schooling. In order to help support his family, young Billings trained as a tanner. He possibly received musical instruction from John Barry, one of the choir members at the New South Church, but for the most part he was self taught.