George Walker (composer)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
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]


Early life[edit]

George Theophilus Walker was born in Washington, D.C. on June 27. His father emigrated from Kingston, Jamaica to the United States where he became a physician after graduating from Temple University Medical School in Philadelphia.[2] George Walker's mother, Rosa King, supervised her son's first piano lessons that began when he was five years of age. His first teacher was Miss Mary L. Henry. Mrs. Lillian Mitchell Allen, who had earned a doctorate in music education, became his second piano teacher.[3] Before graduating Dunbar High School,George Walker was presented in his first public recital at age 14 at Howard University's Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel. Walker was admitted to the Oberlin Conservatory that same year, where he studied with David Moyer and organ with Arthur Poister. In 1939, he became the organist for the Graduate School of Theology of Oberlin College. Graduating at 18 from Oberlin College with the highest honors in his Conservatory class, he was admitted 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.[4] He graduated from the Curtis Institute with Artist Diplomas in piano and composition in 1945, becoming the first black graduate of the music school.[5]


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.

Major Compositions[edit]

  • A Red, Red Rose for Voice and Piano
  • Abu for Narrator and Chamber Ensembles (Network for New Music premiere)
  • Address for Orchestra
  • An Overture Eastman (Eastman School of Music premiere)
  • Antifonys for Camber Orchestra
  • Cantata (The Boys Choir of Harlem premiere)
  • Cantata for Soprano, Tenor, Boys Choir, and Chamber Orchestra (Boys Choir of Harlem premiere)
  • Canvas for Wind Ensemble, Speakers, and Chorus
  • Cello Concerto (New York Philharmonic premiere)
  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra
  • Dialogus for Cello and Orchestra (Cleveland Orchestra premiere)
  • Emily Dickinson Songs
  • Five Fancies for Clarinet and Piano Four Hands (David Ensemble premiere)
  • Foils for Orchestra
  • Folk Songs for Orchestra
  • Guido's Hand
  • Homage to Saint George (Eastman School of Music premiere)
  • Hoopla: A Touch of Glee (Vegas Philharmonic premiere)
  • Icarus In Orbit (New Jersey Youth Symphony premiere)
  • Lilacs for Voice and Orchestra (Symphony Boston premiere)
  • Lyric for Strings
  • Mass for Soloists, Chorus, Organ and Orchestra
  • Modus
  • Music for 3
  • Music for Bass (Sacred and Profane)
  • Music for Two Pianos
  • Nine Songs for Voice and Piano
  • Orpheus for Narrator and Chamber Orchestra (Cleveland Chamber Orchestra premiere)
  • Overture: In Praise of Folly
  • Pageant and Proclamation (New Jersey Symphony premiere)
  • Perimeters for Clarinet and Piano
  • Piano Sonata No. 1
  • Piano Sonata No. 2
  • Piano Sonata No. 3
  • Piano Sonata No. 4
  • Piano Sonata No. 5
  • Poem for Soprano and Chamber Ensemble
  • Poeme for Violin and Orchestra
  • Psalms for Chorus
  • Serenata for Chamber Orchestra
  • Sinfonia No. 1
  • Sinfonia No. 2
  • Sinfonia No. 3
  • Sinfonia No. 4 (2013 premiere by Pittsburgh Symphony at Carnegie Hall)
  • Sonata for Two Pianos
  • Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1
  • Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2
  • Spatials for Piano
  • Spektra for Piano
  • Spires for Organ
  • String Quartet No. 1
  • String Quartet No. 2
  • Tangents (Columbus Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra premiere)
  • Three Pieces for Organ
  • Two Pieces for Organ
  • Variations for Orchestra
  • Violin and Piano Sonata No. 2 (Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts premiere)
  • Windset for Woodwind Quintet


  1. ^ De Lerma, Dominique-Rene. "African Heritage Symphonic Series". Liner note essay. Cedille Records CDR061.
  2. ^ Walker, George (2009) Reminiscences of an American Composer and Pianist, Scarecrow Press, p. 2
  3. ^ Walker, George (2009) Reminiscences of an American Composer and Pianist, Scarecrow Press, p. 13
  4. ^ The 1996 Pulitzer Prize Winners Music,
  5. ^ Timeline: A history of the Curtis Institute of Music, 2014,

External links[edit]