William Grant Still (1895-1978)
African American Composer, Arranger, Conductor & Oboist
Dean of African American Composers
On this date in 1895, William Grant Still was born. He was an African American musician and composer.
Still was the first African American to conduct a major symphony orchestra, the first African-American to have an opera, “Troubled Island” (1949) performed by a major opera company, and the first to have an opera, “A Bayou Legend,” performed on national television (1981).
The period from 1926 to the early 1940s was Still’s most prolific. During this time he wrote “Levee Land” (1925), a suite for orchestra and soprano that combines traditional western musical elements with jazz; “From the Black Belt” (1926), a work for chamber orchestra based on seven short character sketches; “Sahdji” (1930), a choral ballet based on an African story, and “Afro-American Symphony.”