William Grant Still, Composer, Atlantic Classical Orchestra

Born May 11, 1895; Woodville, Mississippi
Died December 3, 1978; Los Angeles, California
American Scenes (Suites 4 & 5)


1957; 62 years old

William Grant Still Jr. stands as a prominent figure in American classical music, renowned for his extensive and diverse body of work. Born in Mississippi and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, Still’s musical journey led him to Wilberforce University and Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he studied under notable mentors such as George Whitefield Chadwick and Edgard Varèse. His close collaboration with key figures of the Harlem Renaissance solidified his place in the cultural movement.

Reverently known as the “Dean of Afro-American Composers,” Still achieved numerous groundbreaking milestones. He was the first American composer to see his opera produced by the New York City Opera, and he holds the distinction of being the first African-American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra. His Afro-American Symphony (1930) stands out as a landmark composition, becoming the most widely performed symphony by an American until 1950. Still’s legacy extends beyond the realm of music, as he broke barriers by having an opera performed by a major opera company showcased on national television. Today, his impact on American classical music is commemorated through his extensive catalog of works, and his papers are preserved at the University of Arkansas.