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Sun 8.11 | Sinfonia No. 4 Strands

GEORGE WALKER (b. 1922)

George Walker began piano studies at age five, started formal lessons soon thereafter and gave his first public recital at Howard University when he was fourteen. As precocious in academics as he was in music, he graduated from Dunbar High School that same year and then attended Oberlin College on a full scholarship; he graduated at age eighteen with highest honors in his class. Advanced study at the Curtis Institute of Music followed; in 1945, he became the school’s first black graduate to receive Artist Diplomas in both piano and composition. Later that year he made his New York Town Hall debut appearing as soloist in Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra (his prize for winning the Philadelphia Youth Auditions). Further piano study in France helped prepare him for several years as a touring virtuoso in Europe and America.

Walker completed his doctoral degree after just one year at the Eastman School in Rochester. Following his graduation, he returned to France for two years on a Fulbright Fellowship and a John Hay Whitney Fellowship to study composition with Nadia Boulanger. He returned to America and thereafter taught at the Dalcroze School of Music in New York City (1960-1961), Smith College (1961-1968, where he became the first black tenured faculty member), University of Colorado (1968-1969), Rutgers University (1969-1992, where he chaired the Music Department), Peabody Institute (1975-1978) and University of Delaware (1975-1976, where he was the recipient of the first Minority Chair established by the University).

Among Walker’s many honors are the 1996 Pulitzer Prize in Music (for his Lilacs for Voice and Orchestra), induction into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame, numerous honorary doctorates, grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller, Koussevitzky, Fromm and MacDowell foundations, membership in the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts, Library of Congress, Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Kennedy Center and other leading ensembles and institutions. Walker has composed more than 90 works and has been performed by every major orchestra in the U.S. and by many others throughout the world. His Sinfonia No. 4, Strands, will receive its West Coast Premiere at Cabrillo Festival’s August 11 Grand Finale performances.


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