William Grant Still

1895 - 1978

American

Biography

William Grant Still was an American composer of nearly 200 works, including five symphonies and nine operas. Born in Mississippi, he grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, attended Wilberforce University and Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and was a student of George Whitefield Chadwick and later Edgard Varèse.

In 1918 Still joined the United States Navy to serve in World War I. After the war he went to Harlem, where he was involved with cultural figures of the Harlem Renaissance, including Langston Hughes, Alain Locke, Arna Bontemps, and Countee Cullen.

He recorded with Fletcher Henderson's Dance Orchestra in 1921, and later played in the pit orchestra for Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake's musical, Shuffle Along and in other pit orchestras for Sophie Tucker, Artie Shaw, and Paul Whiteman. In the 1930s Still worked as an arranger of popular music, writing for Willard Robison's "Deep River Hour" and Paul Whiteman's "Old Gold Show" on NBC Radio.

His first major orchestral composition, Symphony No. 1 "Afro-American," was performed in 1931 by the Rochester Philharmonic, conducted by Howard Hanson. It was the first time the complete score of a work by an African American was performed by a major orchestra. By the end of World War II the piece had been performed in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Berlin, Paris, and London. Until 1950 the symphony was the most popular of any composed by an American. Still developed a close professional relationship with Hanson; many of Still's compositions were performed for the first time in Rochester.

In 1934 Still moved to Los Angeles. He received his first Guggenheim Fellowship and started work on the first of his eight operas, Blue Steel. In 1936, Still conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl; he was the first African American to conduct a major American orchestra in a performance of his own works. In 1949 he became the first American composer to have an opera premiered by the New York City Opera (Troubled Island).

News

Performances

5th June 2022

PERFORMERS
Cal Poly Symphony
CONDUCTOR
David Arrivée
LOCATION
Performing Arts Center, San Luis Obispo, CA, United States of America

11th June 2022

PERFORMERS
Cayuga Chamber Orchestra Youth Orchestra
CONDUCTOR
Kirsten Marshall
LOCATION
Ford Hall, Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY, United States of America

17th June 2022

SOLOISTS
Minnita Daniel-Cox
PERFORMERS
Dayton Performing Arts Alliance
CONDUCTOR
Neal Gittleman
LOCATION
Schuster Center, Dayton , OH, United States of America

17th June 2022

PERFORMERS
Waukegan Symphony Orchestra
CONDUCTOR
Alexander Platt
LOCATION
Waukegan High School Trapp Auditorium, Waukegan , IL, United States of America

18th June 2022

PERFORMERS
Brigantes Orchestra
CONDUCTOR
Quentin Clare
LOCATION
City Hall, Sheffield, United Kingdom

Features

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    • American Symphonies from Ives to Zwilich
    • G. Schirmer & Associated Music Publishers is pleased to announce that a digital download of our critical edition to Charles Ives' Symphony No. 4 is now for sale by Classical On Demand.

Photos

Discography