Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dallas Symphony Orchestra Website For Youth Samples 'Afro-American Symphony'

[William Grant Still, as depicted at the website]

An increasing number of websites present the life and music of William Grant Still (1895-1978) to young people. Today we describe one of these educational resources:
The DSO Kids website of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra says “Games, music, classroom activities, and information about going to the symphony.” The “Listen to the Composers” page at divides classical composers into chronological categories from “Renaissance 1450-1600” to “Modern 1920-Present”. One of the composers in the Modern section is William Grant Still. An audio excerpt of his most famous work, Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American) is provided. The graphics include a brightly colored sketch of the composer, with abbreviated lists of some of his accomplishments, such as the first major production of an opera by an African American composer, Troubled Island. After the title “William Grant Still, Composer” and the name of the work whose audio is sampled, “Afro-American Symphony”, the page reads:

Born May 11, 1895 in Woodville, Mississippi Died December 3, 1978 in Los Angeles, California
Modern 1920-Present
Famous Works
Afro-American Symphony
William Grant Still was the son of a bandmaster. After William's father died, his mother moved the family to Little Rock, Arkansas. William's mother taught in the local high school and later remarried. William's interest in music was encouraged and he often attended concerts as well as studied the violin. William entered Wilberforce University and joined the String Quartet. As his interest in music grew, he taught himself to play the other instruments in the string family as well as oboe, clarinet, and saxophone. He even arranged music for the college band.

William dropped out of Wilberforce only to continue his musical studies at Oberlin College. Playing oboe in the orchestra for the Sissle and Blake's Broadway hit, "Shuffle Along," he toured throughout the country. He studied composition with Edgard Varese and also with George Chadwick at the New England Conservatory of Music. His Afro-American Symphony, one of his most famous works, incorporated melodies drawn from black folk songs. The success of this symphony established William as a composer. William Grant Still has composed works for orchestra, chamber music, operas, and ballets, as well as songs, piano pieces, and repertoire for band. [William Grant Still (1895 -1978) is profiled at, where a complete Works List by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma is also found]

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