Sunday, April 17, 2011

Prolific Organ, Choral and Instrumental Composer Adolphus C. Hailstork Turns 70 April 17, 2011

[Adolphus Hailstork]

Adolphus C. Hailstork is an African American composer and professor who was born on April 17, 1941. He was interviewed by William J. Zick on April 13, 2010. The transcript is excerpted on his page at Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma of Lawrence University Conservatory writes in the liner notes of African Heritage Symphonic Series, Vol. II; Cedille CDR 90000 061 (2001): “Adolphus Cunningham Hailstork was born in Rochester, New York in 1941, but spent most of his childhood in Albany, where he joined the choir of the Episcopalian cathedral. From this experience he developed an interest in vocal melodic writing that asserts itself not only in his choral works and art songs.”

Adolphus Hailstork attended the public schools of Albany, New York. He says in his interview: “Early on, I took a Music Aptitude Exam given by the school system in New York State where I grew up.” “Apparently they thought I had some aptitude for music. If you do, you wind up getting free instrumental lessons. I started out on the violin by the Fourth Grade, and then switched to Piano and Organ, sang in the Choirs, and that was all my early schooling.” Prof. Hailstork says he improvised for hours on the piano, and decided he should study Composition: “I liked the piano because I could sit and improvise for hours, and that's when I decided I preferred to improvise rather than to practice my scales and arpeggios. That's when I decided 'Hey, maybe I better go on to Composition!' I love making up stuff!”

The website of Old Dominion's University says of Hailstork: “While attending Albany High School he began to conduct a boys' choral group and to compose music.” Asked if he had composed before he entered Howard University, Prof. Hailstork replied: “Yes. I have a notebook here from '57 that has some early sketches for pieces in it. That's the earliest extant stuff I have!...Mostly they were little piano pieces....The high school orchestra director, a wonderful woman named Gertrude Howarth, said 'If you write it, we'll play it!'...Started in high school and have never stopped!...That makes this the 53rd year I've been at this stuff; I'm finally getting it!” Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma writes: “Directing his attention to composition, Hailstork entered Howard University in 1959, where he studied with Mark Fax and Warner Lawson.” He was 18 when he wrote Theory2a for an assignment, according to “Kaleidoscope: The Musical World of Adolphus Hailstork.” It also says he wrote the music for The Race for Space. The composer recalled that the other musical he wrote at Howard was Kampus Kapers.

Dr. Hailstork subsequently attended the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Ludmila Uleha, Nicholas Flagello, Vittorio Giannini and David Diamond, according to The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music. “Kaleidoscope” observes that he composed Concert Invention in his first semester, completing the piece on December 19, 1963. Dr. Hailstork completed Phaedra on February 15, 1965. He received a Bachelor of Music degree in Composition in 1965 and a Master of Music degree in Composition in 1966. Statement, Variations and Fugue was his master's thesis and was performed by the Baltimore Symphony in 1966, according to the Presser website.

Dr. Hailstork served in the U.S. Armed Forces in Germany from 1966-68. He relates that he rented a piano and just wrote music during that period. Upon his return to the U.S., Adolphus Hailstork attended Michigan State University. The website of his publisher, Theodore Presser Co., indicates Dr. Hailstork began his teaching career as a graduate teaching assistant from 1969-1971 at M.S.U., where he obtained a Ph.D. In 1971. Adolphus Hailstork began as a Professor of Music at Youngstown State University in 1971. While there he composed Celebration! in 1974.

Dr. Hailstork became a Professor at Norfolk State University in 1977, the year he won a national competition for his work Out of the Depths for band, according to the Theodore Presser Co. Two years later, he wrote his compositional tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Epitaph For A Man Who Dreamed, In Memoriam: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968). Adolphus Hailstork's Symphony No. 1 (23:10) was composed in 1988 and is found on the CD Symphonic Brotherhood, Troy 104 (1993). The Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic was conducted by Julius P. Williams.

The composer's Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3 are paired on Naxos 8.559295, whose liner notes relate that Hailstork began composing his Symphony No. 2 in 1995 before Leslie Dunner, Resident Conductor, asked the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to commission the work, which it premiered in February 1999. Paul Laurence Dunbar: Common Ground was written for the Dayton Opera Company by Adolphus Hailstork. Joshua's Boots is an opera commissioned by the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Prof. De Lerma writes. It premiered in 1999.

In 2000, Prof. Hailstork assumed his present position at Old Dominion University, where he is an Eminent Scholar as well. In the interview he was asked what courses he teaches. “One year I teach Orchestration; the other year I teach Counterpoint, and I have four Composition students.” Prof. Hailstork admits to a preference for the organ. His works for organ and his choral works are among the most-performed and most-recorded of his compositions. His long-standing relationship with JoAnn Falletta and the Virginia Symphony continues with the planned release in May of an all-Hailstork recording, on Naxos, a leading classical music label.

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