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George T Walker

Male | Composers

George Walker has earned international recognition both as a piano soloist and as a composer. He was the first African American composer to win the Pulitzer Prize in Music.


George Walker (June 27, 1922 – August 23, 2018) has earned international recognition both as a piano soloist and as a composer. He has been commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Philharmonic, the Eastman School of Music, the Fromm Foundation, the Kindler Foundation, the Boys Choir of Harlem, the Maryland International Piano Competition, the David Foundation, Frederic Moyer and the Astral Foundation, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. His works have been performed by the Boston Symphony, National Symphony, the symphony orchestras of Detroit, Dallas, Minneapolis, Denver, Buffalo, the London Symphony, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Walker received a four year scholarship to Oberlin Conservatory where he earned his Bachelor of Music degree at the age of 18. He received his Artist Diploma in piano and composition from the Curtis Institute of Music and a Diploma in piano from the American Academy in Fontainebleau, France. His Doctor of Musical Arts degree is from the Eastman School of Music. Some of the world-renowned musicians with whom he studied are Rudolf Serkin, Rosario Scalero, Nadia Boulanger, Gregory Piatigorsky, William Primrose, and Gian Carlo Menotti. Walker's many awards include honorary doctorates from Lafayette College and Oberlin Conservatory. He has received numerous grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and an award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Additional fellowships were received from the Fulbright Commission, John Hay Whitney Foundation, the Guggenheim and Rockefellow Foundation, the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. To crown this distinguished list of achievements, George Walker was awarded the Pulitzer prize in 1996 for his composition, Lilacs. This was the first time a Black musician had been so honored.

Walker is professor emeritus at Rutgers University. He has over sixty published works and numerous recordings on the CBS, Desto, Mercury, orion, Serenus, Gun-Mar, and Da Camera Magna labels. Major works appearing on these issues include his Piano and Trombone Concerti, four piano sonatas, Variations for Orchestra, eleven songs for voice and piano, sonatas for violin and piano, and cello and piano, a brass quintet, and his Lyric for Strings.

Source: Perkins Holly, Ellistine. Biographies of Black Composers and Songwriters; A Supplementary Textbook. Iowa:Wm. C. Brown Publishers, 1990.




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