Tag: African-American composers

R.I.P. George Walker, 96, Trailblazing American Composer and Pulitzer Prize Winner

Composer George Walker (photo via npr.org)

by Tom Huizenga via npr.com

Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, pianist and educator George Walker has died at the age of 96. Walker’s death was announced to NPR by one of his family members, Karen Schaefer, who said he died Thursday at Mountainside Hospital in Montclair, N.J. after a fall.

Walker’s music was firmly rooted in the modern classical tradition, but also drew from African-American spirituals and jazz. His nearly 100 compositions range broadly, from intricately orchestrated symphonic works and concertos to intimate songs and solo piano pieces.

“His music is always characterized by a great sense of dignity, which is how he always comported himself,” says composer Jeffrey Mumford, who, as a music professor at Lorain County Community College in Ohio, uses examples of Walker’s music in his classes. “His style evolved over the years; his earlier works, some written while still a student, embodied an impressive clarity and elegance.”

Walker was a trailblazing man of “firsts,” and not just because of the Pulitzer. In the year 1945 alone, he was the first African-American pianist to play a recital at New York’s Town Hall, the first black instrumentalist to play solo with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the first black graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

The following year, Walker wrote his first string quartet. In 1990, he revised the second movement into a new piece, Lyric for Strings, which has become his most often-performed work.

In 1996, Walker broke new ground again when he became the first African-American composer to win a Pulitzer Prize for music. Lilacs for voice and orchestra, set to a text by Walt Whitman, is a moving meditation on the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

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Former Professor Adolphus Hailstork Endows Music Scholarship at Norfolk State University

Adolphus HailstorkComposer and educator Adolphus Hailstork has established an endowed scholarship fund at historically Black Norfolk State University in Virginia. The fund will support undergraduate music students at the university, where Hailstork taught from 1977 to 2000.

Professor Hailstork is a 1963 graduate of Howard University in Washington, D.C. A piece he composed for his master’s degree thesis was performed by the Baltimore Symphony in 1966. Over the years his musical works include compositions for piano, organ, band, orchestra, chorus, and solo voice performances. His 2007 opera, Rise for Freedom about the Underground Railroad, had its first performance with the Cincinnati Opera Company.

 article via jbhe.com