George Walker (composer)

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George Walker going over his Address for Orchestra with Benjamin Steinberg of the Symphony of the New World, 1968

George Theophilus Walker (born June 27, 1922) is an African-American composer, the first to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. He received the Pulitzer for his work Lilacs in 1996.[1]

Walker was first exposed to music at the age of five when he began to play the piano. He was admitted to the Oberlin Conservatory at 14, and later to the Curtis Institute of Music to study piano with Rudolf Serkin, chamber music with William Primrose and Gregor Piatigorsky, and composition with Rosario Scalero, teacher of Samuel Barber. He received his doctorate from the Eastman School of Music. Walker taught at Rutgers University in New Jersey for several years, retiring in 1992.

Walker's first major orchestral work was the Address for Orchestra. His Lyric for Strings is his most performed orchestral work. He has composed many works including 5 sonatas for piano, a mass, cantata, many songs, choral works, organ pieces, sonatas for cello and piano, violin and piano and viola and piano, a brass quintet and a woodwind quintet. He has published over 90 works. He has received commissions from the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, and many other ensembles. He is the recipient of six honorary doctoral degrees.

Walker is the father of two sons, violinist and composer Gregory Walker, and playwright Ian Walker. He resides in Montclair, NJ.

In 1997, Walker was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt.[2]


  1. ^ De Lerma, Dominique-Rene. "African Heritage Symphonic Series". Liner note essay. Cedille Records CDR061.
  2. ^ Moss, Gary (November 4, 1997). "Composer Gets Warm Welcome". The Fayetteville Observer. 

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