Give Now

George Theophilus Walker: February’s Contemporary Composer

Awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1996 for his work Lilacs for Voice and Orchestra, George Walker became the first African American man so honored.

Composer George Theophilus Walker

Photo: George Walker

Composer George Theophilus Walker

WFIU’s featured contemporary composer for the month of February is American composer George Theophilus Walker.

Internationally celebrated as a composer and pianist, George Walker (b. 1922) studied piano at the Oberlin College Conservatory with David Moyer and organ with Arthur Poister. He went on to study with Rudolf Serkin at the Curtis Institute of Music, where he graduated with Artist Diplomas in piano and composition in 1945. That same year, Walker made his debut in New York’s Town Hall, becoming the first black instrumentalist to perform in that venue.

In 1950, Walker was signed by National Concert Artists and took part in a tour of seven European countries. He later became the first black recipient of a doctoral degree from the Eastman School of Music in 1956 and had additional studies with Nadia Boulanger at the American Conservatory, Fontainebleau after receiving both a Fulbright Fellowship and a John Hay Whitney Fellowship in 1957.

A distinguished teacher, Walker has held positions at Dillard University in New Orleans, the New School of Social Research, Smith College, the University of Colorado, Boulder, Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, the University of Delaware and Rutgers University (1969–92), where he was Chairman of the Music Department.

A prolific composer, Walker’s style reflects the influences of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Debussy and Ravel and is characterized by neo-classical forms along with aspects of serialism. His compositional output includes over 90 works for orchestra, chamber orchestra, piano, strings, voice, organ, clarinet, guitar, brass, woodwinds, and chorus.

Awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1996 for his work Lilacs for Voice and Orchestra, Walker became the first African American man so honored. His works have been commissioned and performed by major orchestras and ensembles worldwide, including the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Boston Symphony and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

In April 2000, Walker was inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame in a ceremony at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. He served as the composer-in-residence for the Ritz Chamber Players during their 2008-2009 concert season and was honored by the Newark School of the Arts in 2011.

Additional awards include Guggenheim, Rockefeller and MacDowell fellowships, a Fromm Foundation commission, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, and two Alumni Awards from the Eastman School of Music. Walker has also received honorary doctorate degrees from Lafayette College, Oberlin College, Montclair State University, Bloomfield College, Curtis Institute of Music and Spelman College.

WFIU will feature music of George Theophilus Walker in our classical music programming throughout the month of February.

 

Heidi Siberz

Heidi Siberz moved to Bloomington in 2010 and is currently pursuing a doctorate in saxophone performance from Indiana University. She has served as an associate instructor of saxophone for the Jacobs School of Music and as a music cataloger for the William & Gayle Cook Music Library. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening and exploring the Bloomington area with her husband.

View all posts by this author »

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Indiana Public Media Arts & Music:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

Search Arts and Music

Stay Connected

RSS e-mail itunes Facebook Twitter Flickr YouTube

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Indiana Public Media Arts & Music:

Recent Classical Music Stories

Classical Music Events RSS icon

More Events »Submit Your Event »

Arts & Music is on Twitter

Find Us on Facebook

This Week on Harmonia Early Music

Remembering Frans Brüggen

Frans Brüggen

Let's celebrate the life of early-music pioneer Frans Brüggen, who passed away in 2014. We'll also mark the 250th anniversary of Rameau's death.

Read more »

Harmonia Early Music is a nationally syndicated weekly early music radio program, podcast and blog produced by WFIU Public Radio.

More from Harmonia »

This Week on Poets Weave

Photograph: Father And Grandfather Fishing The Pier…

fishing for perch

O'Neill reads "Anniversary Poem for Ann," "Tectonic of Love," "Photograph: Father and Grandfather Fishing the Pier at Michigan City, and "One Month After."

Read more »

The Poets Weave is a weekly five-minute program of poetry reading hosted by local poet Christopher Citro.

More from The Poets Weave »

This Week on Earth Eats

Prayer And Work Go Hand In Hand At This Colorado Ranch

cows at Abbey of St. Walburga

In their simple farm clothes, it can be easy to forget the women are nuns - save for the fact they still wear the familiar fitted white coif.

Read more »

Earth Eats is a podcast, radio program and blog of the freshest news and recipes inspired by local food and sustainable agriculture.

More from Earth Eats »

This Week on Focus on Flowers

Holiday Greens

holiday green

Here are some tips for quick and easy and green holiday decor.

Read more »

Focus on Flowers is a weekly program about flower gardening hosted by master gardener Moya Andews.

More from Focus on Flowers »