William Grant Still

Topics: African American, William Grant Still, Verna Arvey Pages: 3 (826 words) Published: April 18, 2013
William Grant Still was born in rural Mississippi on May 11, 1895 to parents who made a modest living teaching. Today Still is the most famous African American composer. Still’s father, though he died when Still three months old was, was one of his biggest influence. His father was a local band leader. After his fathers’ death, Still and his mother moved to Little Rock, Arkansas where she was a High School English teacher for nearly thirty years. Still’s step father, Charles Shepperson, nurtured his interest in music and musical talent by taking him to operas and buying him recordings. Still was self-taught in saxophone, clarinet, and cello along with an assortment of other instruments while also taking violin lessons. A man with humble beginnings, William Grant Still became the first person of African descent to conduct a major American Symphony ("William Still"). Still is most famous for his Symphony No. 1 "Afro-American”. He was the first African-American man to write a symphony and then have it performed by the leading Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. Still also wrote Operas, but they never gained the notoriety of his aforementioned symphony. He composed such operas as Troubled Island and A Bayou Legend. Still made a name for himself during a time when African Americans were oppressed. William Grant Still was married to Verna Arvey, who played a big part in his music. They were married in Mexico due to the fact that interracial marriage was illegal in the United States. Still defied all social stigmas and became a man who broke down barriers in music and fought equality (J. Smith). The list of his groundbreaking achievements ranges from being the first African-American to conduct a symphony in the Deep South to being the first to have a symphony televised over a national network. Still was a pioneer in the Modern era of music in the early 20th century by creating music that interests all of the greats, but had a definite American influence to it. When...

Cited: Murchison, Gayle. “‘Dean of Afro-American Composers’ or ‘Harlem Renaissance Man’: The
New Negro and the Musical Poetics of William Grant Still.”Arkansas Historical
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Smith, Catherine. William Grant Still (American Composers). 1st. 1. Chicago: University of
Illinois Press, 2008.23-56. Print.
Smith, Jesse. "Visible Ink Press."Visible Ink Press. 1st.1st (1998): n. page. Web. 2 Dec. 2012.
"William Grant Still." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. General OneFile.
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