The Black Arts with A. Grace Lee Mims is heard Wednesdays at 10:00PM
George Walker—A Life of "Firsts"
"This composer has finally gotten the recognition he deserves." (Zubin Mehta, conductor, Star Ledger, April 14, 1996)
Throughout his distinguished and brilliant career as a musician and composer, George Theophilus Walker, born June 27, 1922 in Philadelphia, lived a life of "firsts." He was the first black instrumentalist to perform his debut recital in Town Hall, New York. He was the winner of the Philadelphia Youth Auditions, and two weeks after his New York debut in November of 1945 he played the Third Piano Concerto of Rachmaninoff with the Philadelphia Orchestra and conductor Eugene Ormandy. He was the first black instrumentalist to appear with this orchestra. In 1950, George Walker became the first black instrumentalist to be signed by a major management company, the National Concert Artists. In between those “firsts,” Mr. Walker made unprecedented tours of seven European countries, playing in Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and England in the major cities of Stockholm, Copenhagen, The Hague, Amsterdam, Frankfurt am Main, Lausanne, Berne, Milan, and London with great acclaim. One of Walker's most noted firsts—though by no means his last—occurred at the Eastman School of Music in 1956. In that year, he became that institution's first black recipient of a doctoral degree. He also received an Artist Diploma in Piano.
George Walker was awarded both a Fulbright Fellowship and a John Hay Whitney Fellowship. He was the first composer to receive the Whitney award and spent two years in Paris learning composition from Nadia Boulanger.
As a composer, Mr. Walker has published over 90 works for orchestra, chamber orchestra, piano, strings, voice, organ, clarinet, guitar, brass, woodwinds, and chorus. His works have been performed by virtually every major orchestra in the United States and by many in England and other countries. His awards range from Guggenheim Fellowships to Koussevitsky Awards. And in 1996 George Walker became the first black composer to receive the coveted Pulitzer Prize for his work, Lilacs for Voice and Orchestra, which was premiered by the Boston Symphony and Seiji Ozawa. The awards and accolades continue for this brilliant man’s work. In January of 2007, George Walker received the annual Legacy Award from the National Opera Association.
George Walker will be featured on The Black Arts on Wednesday, June 24th at 10.00 p.m.
The Black Arts-National City Artist of the Month is presented with the sponsorship of National City, now a part of PNC, dedicated to supporting the communities they serve.