Born into a musical family, grandson of Rutland Boughton and son of a viola-player father and a singer mother, William Boughton studied at the New England Conservatory (Boston), the Guildhall School of Music (London) and the Prague Academy as a cellist, before entering the profession in London playing with the Royal Philharmonic, BBC and London Sinfonietta Orchestras. He went on to study conducting with George Hurst and then Sir Colin Davis, and in 1980 formed the English String Orchestra initially focusing on early twentieth-century English repertoire, extended to the contemporary, with a number of commissions. With the ESO he built a significant discography of internationally acclaimed recordings with Nimbus Records—predominantly of English music, a number of which reached the Top Ten in the US Billboard charts. Between 1986 and 1993 he was also artistic and music director of the Jyväskylä Sinfonia in Finland and guest conducted with leading orchestras and soloists. In 1996 William Boughton commenced a second term as artistic director of the Malvern Festival and, after a final year with the ESO, in 2007 became the tenth music director of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra.