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Born in 1895
Inducted in 1999
William Grant Still’s life began in 1895 in the small town of Woodville, Mississippi. In 1911, Still received his undergraduate education at Wilberforce University in Ohio. He joined the string quartet, conducted the college band, and arranged music for that group and others. When he left college shortly before graduation in 1914 he found work with W. C. Handy in Memphis. He later continued his music studies in composition at Oberlin in 1917 and 1919. In 1922, he approached George Whitefield Chadwick, who accepted him as a private student at no charge. From 1923 to 1925 he studied with the avant-garde French composer Edgard Varese, who lived then in New York City. In those early days of radio broadcasting, Still achieved a solid reputation for his work on such shows as the Maxwell House Coffee program, the Bell Telephone Hour, Standard Symphony Hour, and the Deep River Hour. He ultimately became the music director and conductor of the show, the first black person ever to conduct a white radio orchestra in New York City. The performance of his Afro-American Symphony in 1931 brought him widespread recognition. This was a milestone in American music – the first time in history that a major American symphony orchestra had played a symphonic work written by a black composer. In 1935 the New York Philharmonic gave the New York premiere of Still’s symphony at Carnegie Hall. Leopold Stokowski took the Afro-American Symphony on a U. S. tour with The Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1936 he became the first black conductor to lead a major symphony orchestra in the United States. He received many honors, including an honorary doctorate from the New England Conservatory, Guggenheim and Rosenwald Fellowships, a Harmon Award, and many, many others.
Performer: University of Cincinnati Philharmonia Orchestra, Jin Dong Cai (conductor)
Courtesy Of: Centaur Records