William Grant Still:
Character Through the Classics
Kennesaw State University
unit was supported by The Georgia Humanities Council (Chatacter Through The Classics), The United
states Office of Education (Chararacter Through The Arts), Learn & Serve America (Character
Through Service Learning), and The Leonard Bernstein Center For Learning at Gettysburg College.
The unit is an important illustration of
‘providing opportunities for moral action’ as recommended by the Character Education
Partnership. It is an example of an extremely high level arts integration
unit, and is perhaps the most extensive unit in terms of length and scope. A
remarkable piece of work.
Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American) by William Grant
Relationships – Between races in America, between art forms, and between academic
Significant Question: In what ways are we as a people
living up to our creed, and what still needs doing?
Masterwork: Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American) by William Grant Still
Symphony No. 41
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
“St. Louis Blues”
by W.C. Handy as sung by Bessie Smith
in the Water,” African American Spiritual arranged by William
Grant Still in “Little Folk Suites”
Topics and Standards:
Georgia QCCs: see Appendix, p. 22-24)
Citizenship (equality, freedom of expression, liberty: freedom
tolerance, courage, honor)
Respect for Others (integrity,
fairness: freedom from favoritism)
Respect for Self (commitment, perseverance
and diligence, accomplishment,
Education Knowledge and Skill Topics:
Standards, Music Education National Conference [MENC]:
Appendix p. 25)
Lesson I-V: Understanding
relationships between music, the other arts, and
disciplines outside the arts.
music in relation to history and culture.
Lesson I : Listening to, analyzing, playing
instruments (related to the Blues
Singing alone and
Performing on instruments
II: Analyzing music (Sonata Form)
Singing alone and
Lesson III/IV: Listening to, analyzing, and describing music
Singing alone and with others
alone and with others
Performing on Instruments
Inquiry/Questions (For reflection and discussion throughout
content of unit.)
I. What differences do you perceive in
the creation and performance of traditional
music and European-derived symphonic music?
What differences do you perceive in the role of the audience during
of traditional African American music and symphonic music?
What difficulties might be considered when a composer “fuses” traditional
styles of music into a new genre?
IV. If a composer
attempts, in the face of adversity to blend musical styles
identified with a specific cultural community of people, what
traits might the composer exhibit? What cultural “objections”
be encountered, and how might they be expressed?
what circumstances are the different metaphors for America, a melting pot or a mixed salad, appropriate?
(Reflecting cross disciplines of Music, Art, Poetry, Character
The student will play, sing, and analyze music in the Blues genre.
The student will write text to a blues melody.
The student will have opportunities to reflect upon ethical issues of “borrowing
The student will analyze the sonata form using Mozart Symphony No. 41.
The student will discover through hands-on experiences and discussion the
themes, form, and structure
of William Grant Still’s Symphony No. 1 “Afro-
The student will discuss and reflect upon the life and times of William Grant Still
and the influences
of the culture upon his music.
The student will have opportunities to discuss and write their responses to ideas
of respect, tolerance, perseverance and creativity
of Mr. Still, and the
implications suggested for present day tolerance issues.
The student will perform (sing, play instruments, and move) using a folk song
from each of three (historically oppressed) cultures:
African-American, Hebrew, and Native American.
The student will reflect upon the stanzas of poetry by Paul Laurence Dunbar
and the relevance to the understanding of the expressive meaning
The student will discuss the art print, “The Banjo Player” by Tanner, and its
aesthetic connection to the Symphony No. 1 by Still.
The student will reflect upon broad cultural implications of respect, courage,
creative freedom and tolerance.
After listening to a recording of Bessie Smith singing “St. Louis Blues, “
will discuss the style, mood, and lyrics inherent in the music.
students will sing “St. Louis Blues” along with the recording.
III. The student
will create new lyrics to a blues song.
IV. The student will perform instrumental accompaniment to their “Blues Song,”
following the twelve-bar blues chord structure.
The student will role play the “selling” of their work and discuss “creative
The student will reflect and discuss ethical questions
regarding the “borrowing” of
ideas and recorded music.
Orff instruments (removable
bars) and/or auto harps.
Photograph of William
Legends of the Blues, Vol. 1, Columbia # 46215;
William Grant Still Symphony No. 1 “Afro American,”
Orchestra, Neeme Jarvi, Conductor, Chandos #9154.
of William Grant Still
of “St. Louis Blues” on transparency (See
Appendix, p. 15)
money (“Music Bucks”)
Sites for reference:
(Music Publishers Association) www.mpa.org
Introduce teaching staff, guests, etc. to the students. Inform students that they
will engage in music listening, playing and singing along
with “enjoyable” musical experiences in order to experience how musical compositions
are affected by the culture, education, and character of the composer.
II. Musical Introduction:
a recording of Bessie Smith singing “St. Louis Blues.”
What style of music do you hear?
What ethnic group
of people do you relate to this style?
styles of music do you think reflect the human expressive aspects of the
American tradition, prior to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s?
(In addition to the blues
are spirituals, “cries,” “hollers,” work songs,
game songs [mostly urban.])
What mood/feeling is
conveyed by the melody and the lyrics?
(Students are shown lyrics to St. Louis Blues on overhead.
The recording is
played again and
students are encouraged to “sing along with Bessie.”)
III. Facilitator shows picture of
William Grant Still.
Have you heard of
the composer William Grant Still?
Have you heard of
What might this man
have in common with the Blues style?
Handy wrote St. Louis Blues, and William Grant Still worked with Handy
during the Harlem
Renaissance of the 1920s and 30s. They were both black
during the early 20th century.)
are divided into small groups. They are given the task of writing new
words to parody the
first three lines:
“I hate to
see-------(the evening sun go down)
I hate to see-------(the
evening sun go down)
. (It makes me think I’m on my last go ‘round.)”
V. Students write
their lyrics on transparency.
VI. Group Performances:
Each group projects their words as students sing. (Optional
accompaniment on Orff instrument
bars with root notes, or on autoharps with chords, based on the twelve-bar blues pattern.)
C7 C7 C7C7
four beats per chord
F7 F7 C7 C7
G7 G7 C7 C7
VII. After performances, the facilitator
chooses one of the selections and announces that
he/she is buying
the words from the group—pays them “fake” money. After
purchase, facilitator informs group that their words will
be posted online
(“Nabster,”etc.) and they will receive no further
compensation for their work. The public may download this work, change it, or use
it in any way they desire—free.
VIII. Back to William Grant Still.
Play “St. Louis Blues” again. Immediately follow
by “Opening” to first movement
of Still’s “African American Symphony.”
If a keyboard is available, facilitator can play the “Blues Theme
in addition to the
recorded example. Theme is found on p. 124 of Smith (2000)
Still: A Study in Contradictions.)
Do you hear similarities
between “St. Louis Blues” and the opening melody of
Was a melody borrowed?
If so, who borrowed from who? Was it legal? Was it
in musical style do you hear in the two pieces? Do these
stylistic differences change the way you think about
(Background to be discussed with students in later lesson:
William Grant Still placed the melody into a symphonic, i.e. classical
music form. His African American background and influence, i.e. blues, spiritual, etc., are blended into
orchestral music intended for the concert hall.)
IX. Questions for Reflection and Discussion:
How did you feel when you “lost control” of the
words and ideas you created?
If you take a musical idea from
another person and call it your own, are you
committing an illegal
Is it legal and/or
ethical to “download” recorded music from the internet?
What is the difference
between “borrowing” musical ideas illegally and
musical ideas unethically?
Do you feel that William
Grant Still “borrowed” ideas?
I, II: Students will be evaluated by active discussion and
Students will be evaluated by quality of parodied lyrics.
Students will be evaluated by instrumental performance.
Objectives V, VI:
Students will be evaluated by reflective discussion
The student will sing the
African American spiritual, “Wade in the Water.”
After listening to W. Grant
Still’s string quartet arrangement of “Wade in
Water,” the student will discern compositional and performance similarities and differences
from the original song.
student will discern the musical structure (form) of the string quartet
arrangement of “Wade in the Water.”
The student will view the video tape, Leonard Bernstein’s
is Sonata Form?”
The student hold up “form
cards” in order to participate with the students in the Bernstein video tape audience.
The student will discuss similarities and differences
of the Sonata Form of Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 “Jupiter” to
the song “Wade in the Water.”
Music for song, “Wade in the Water,”
(See p. 16)
Oregon Festival of American Music Presents: William
Oregon String Quartet, Koch Recording # 3-7546-2HI.
Leonard Bernstein Young People’s Concert, “What is
(edited to 30 minutes.)
Cards with “form”
words consistent with sonata form: Exposition,
Development, Exposition, etc.
Inquiry/Questions (to be developed:)
What are some common structures (form) in music that can cross
How do the arts reflect the structure of human daily lives?
What structural decisions
are made by a composer in designing a musical piece? (Repetition, Variation, Contrast)
Review content and experiences
from Lesson I, discussing process, blues
form, and insights into the “ethics” of
borrowing creative products.
“We looked at the generic form of a Blues.
We will now explore another
structure that seems to cross over styles of music.
Teach students the traditional song, “Wade in
the Water.” (See p. 16)
What kind of song is this? (Spiritual) The spiritual
is a traditional song of the African American tradition. The composer William Grant Still took this song
and arranged it for string quartet. Listen for similarities and differences from the “Wade
in the Water” we sang. (Play CD selection: Track # 14)
Discuss similarities. (Same basic tune)
(No text, string instruments, some minor changes in basic melody, and
contrasting melodic change in middle part of piece.)
Explanation of musical form: The
structure of music is a metaphorical “house.”
“Front porch” is an Introduction; “back
porch” is the Coda (musical tail);
main house contains
a number of “rooms,” some the same, some varied, and
Play the Still arrangement
of “Wade---“ again, asking students to raise their
each time they hear the original melody of “Wade in the Water.”
discern that the musical form of the piece is:
A, A, B, A, Coda. (Still structured the string quartet arrangement
a “traditional” European musical form: Ternary.
We will now explore that European form in a symphony
No. 41 “The Jupiter.” As you watch the video tape of Leonard
Bernstein conducting the orchestra, note the names of the
used, rather than A and B.
(Play 30 minute edited version of Leonard Bernstein’s
Young People’s Concert, “What is Sonata Form?”)
During the viewing, pass out cards with Exposition,
Recapitulation, etc. in order for the students to participate with the film
After viewing the tape, discuss the ternary form and
Form. Rather than ABA, the sections
are Exposition, Development, and
Our next experience in
Lesson III will explore the Symphony No. 1 of William Grant Still and the “melding” of musical style.
Students will be evaluated by active participation in the song.
Students will be evaluated by active discussion.
Objective III, IV,
V: Students will be evaluated by discussion, and
description of musical
I. The student will identify mood,
style and tone color contained in movements three
four of William Grant Still’s Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American.)
The student will discuss cultural stereotypes which lead to misunderstanding and
III. The students will read, discuss, and compare the excerpts
of poetry by Paul
as attributed to movements three and four of the Symphony
1 by Still.
Materials: Recording: William Grant Still Symphony
“Afro American,” Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Jarvi,
Conductor, Chandos 9154.
Art Print: Tanner, The Banjo Player
Paul Laurence Dunbar: (excerpts from poetry
chosen by W. G. Still to relate to Symphony No. 1)
(See Appendix, p.
Large posters of four families
of musical instruments
Does the music from the third and fourth movements of the Still Symphony No. 1
reflect the culture of the African-American people in the
early 1930s? In what ways does it reflect, and in what ways does it differ?
What does the music say about the life of William Grant Still and his education?
Why would Still assign stanzas of poetry to accompany the movements of his
Symphony No. 1?
Do these stanzas help you to understand the feelings
That the music seeks
to portray? (Poetry found in Appendix I.)
IV. What does the poetry suggest
to you about the life of poet, Paul
Dunbar? (Stanza for 3rd movement is in dialect; stanza for
4th is in “standard English.”)
Review ideas ,discussions, and experiences from Lesson I and II (Blues/Sonata Form.)
(Lessons III, IV, and V connect the European Sonata Form with
the Blues/Spiritual genre.)
II. Begin by “jumping in” and
listening to some music without knowing anything
it. (Play 3rd movement of the Symphony. 3:05 minutes)
What instruments do you hear? Can you identify the instruments
from the posters showing
the four families of orchestral instruments: strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion? Do
you hear any instruments not pictured on the posters? (Note the banjo.) Show the art
print, Tanner’s The Banjo Player. When do you think it was written?
What is the general mood
of the piece? Does the music tell you anything about the person of the composer?
When you know that this music was written by an
man in the 1930’s, what challenges, problems, and
influences might be evident
in his music? Is this typical music of the African
What music IS typical? (Blues, Jazz, Spirituals)
Briefly give highlights of the life of composer William Grant Still, his
and education. (See Appendix p. 19)
IV. Have students read the two stanzas of poetry assigned to the 3rd
and 4th movements
Ask students to compare the poetry. Does the poetry help you
to predict the mood
and “flavor” of the 4th movement, before hearing it?
Play the 4th movement of the Symphony. (8:13 minutes.) As
the students listen,
them list some of the instruments they hear along with descriptive words
might assign to the movement that would express their perception of the
of the piece.
VI. Lead discussion about the comparison
of the two movements and the feelings
expressed in each.
What do the two stanzas of poetry tell you about the man Paul Laurence Dunbar? (Encourage students
to postpone discussion of the
dialect aspect of the poetry until the third lesson.)
After hearing the 3rd and 4th movements of the symphony, what would
predictions of the
mood of the 1st and 2nd? If Mr. Still composed this symphony
in spite of stereotypes
and cultural barriers, what does this say to you about his
(Perseverance, respect for self, respect for the creative process, etc.)
Objectives I., II., III. Evaluations will
be by interactive discussion,
participation and engagement with issues brought forth.
Students may also
be evaluated by reflective writing on the mood and tone color
contained in 3rd and 4th movements.
After reviewing material from Lesson III, the student will identify the themes,
and structure of the 1st Movement of W.G. Still’s “Afro-American
The student will compare the music and designated poetry of the 1st
movement to the 2nd movement.
III. The student will identify Character Traits evidenced
in the music and poetry.
Materials: CD: W. G. Still: Symphony No. 1 “Afro American”
Listening Outline Sheets
(cut out and placed in plastic bags.)
Key (Outline sheet of Symphony No. 1, Form)
did William Grant Still express his life experiences, culture, musical training
In what ways did Mr. Still attempt through his composition to gain acceptance in
the broad field of musical performance?
Why did Mr. Still have difficulty publishing and performing his music?
his music be more likely to be accepted by the African-American culture
of his time, rather than the mainstream “white?”
(Note: He had difficulty with
material from Lesson I from discussion of W.G. Still, Blues,
and the ideas of the poetry assigned.
II. Excerpt of the 1st
movement of the Afro-American Symphony are played,
the “blues” theme and the “spiritual” theme. Students
discuss differences in the two themes. (CD # :30-- blues theme; CD # 2:25--spiritual
Identification of Form and Structure of Themes in 1st Movement:
Students are given
a listening outline sheet (Introduction, Exposition of
Blues and Spiritual Themes, Development, Recapitulation, Bridges,
Coda) of 1st
movement of Afro-American Symphony. They are also given a bag of cutout icons for
specific components to be placed on outline sheet as they listen. (Listening Outline Sheet
and page of icons included.)
Piece is played with a verbal
cue (number) to place a chosen cutout on the
spot on the outline. (Teacher can refer to cue numbers on the CD player for
accuracy in giving verbal numbers.)
completion of 1st movement, students discuss their decisions.
Movement is played again with teacher placing parts
on overhead projected outline sheet. (Teacher can note to student that Mr. Still
re-introduced the Spiritual theme first in the Recapitulation, rather than the Blues—unusual.)
Reflection: Student re-reads the poetry assigned to the 1st
movement. Does it fit
student’s own ideas of “meaning” of the music?
Does it contribute to the listener’s understanding of
the piece, or detract?
V. A student reads aloud the poem assigned
to the 2nd movement, followed by listening
to the entire 2nd
movement (5:17 minutes.)
Reflection: What musical characteristics contribute to the feeling of
sadness of the 2nd movement?
Does the poem enhance or detract? How does the
2nd movement differ from the first?
VII. Reflection (Writing/Discussion--Character Traits)
Was Mr. Still referring to his own
life in this piece, or lives
of African Americans in the past? What aspects of
citizenship and respect
come to mind in Mr. Still’s music? How does this music
differ from the student’s
perception of “African-American” music? Why would
Mr. Still write music in the classical “symphony”
(Possible guides for Teacher—W.G. Still wanted
to “fuse” the music of the African-American culture into the mainstream of American
music. He wanted his music to have universal appeal—i.e. integration of
Students will identify the Themes, Form, and Structure by correctly placing cutouts
on Listening Guide.
Students will compare music and poetry through discussion and questioning
III. Students will be evaluated on character traits
and musical connections through
of 1st Movement
# references to Chandos Recording 9154
Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Jarvi Conducting)
2. Blues Theme 1 (.30)
3. Blues Theme 2 (1st
4. Bridge (1.37)
5. Blues Theme 3 (2nd Variation)
6. Bridge (2.08)
7. Spiritual Theme 1 (2.25)
8. Spiritual Theme 2 (1st Variation) (2.58)
9. Spiritual Theme 3 (2nd Variation) (3.24)—harp
11. Development (4.06)—cymbals introduce
Spiritual Theme 4 (3rd Variation) (5.05)
14. Blues Theme 4 (3rd Variation) (5.47)
15. Coda (6.27)
(For use by teacher in calling
numbers of sections, and to check students’ work.)
“Icon” Cutouts for
(Directions: Copy the Listening Outline
Sheet for each student. Copy the Icon Sheet onto heavy paper as needed for each student.
Icons and Listening Sheets can also be laminated. Cut around
each of the Icons, Introduction, Coda, and Development. There should
be a total of 15 words/Icons in each packet.)
The student will sing three songs:
in the Water” from the African-American spiritual tradition.
Chavarim” from the Hebrew folk culture.
Ya, Ho Ya,” a Native American chant.
The student will perform an Israeli folk dance (simple grapevine step in circle) while
III. The student will perform
the three songs within ensemble, adding instruments and
IV. The student will have opportunities
to discuss and write about issues of stereotypes,
fairness, creativity, and respect which have been suggested through the listening experiences with
Symphony No. 1.
songs: “Wade in the Water,” “Shalom Chavarim,” and “Hey
Ho Ya.” (See page 16)
After the completion of the Symphony No. 1, W. G. Still assigned
a stanza of poetry to each of the four movements of the symphony. The
first three are in dialect, the last stanza is in standard English.
- Why would Still use the “dialect”
version of the poetry?
- Why would Still use the “dialect”
version of the poetry in the first three movements and not the fourth?
- “Translate” the stanzas
written in dialect into standard English. Does this change the meaning
or emotional impact of the stanzas?
- Does it make a difference in the
interpretation of the “soul” of the piece that the stanzas were added after
the completion of the piece, rather than at the beginning or during the composition?
- What implications can be made to the present
time of the challenges faced by Mr.
in the writing, performance, and publication of his music?
Mr. Still were alive today, would he still face issues of intolerance? If
so, in what ways?
After reviewing material from Lesson I and II, teach students three songs:
in the Water” from the African-American spiritual tradition.
Chavarim” from the Hebrew folk culture.
Ya, Ho Ya,” a Native American chant. (Notation included.)
Teach students a simple Israeli folk dance step (grapevine) in circle, while
“Shalom.” (Holding hands in circle, begin right foot stepping to side;
behind right; step right, cross left in front of right; repeat.)
Students can create improvisational body percussion and movement while walking
a circle and singing “Wade in the Water.”
Students sing “Hey Ya” in center of circles while several students play a large
The three pieces will be performed all together in ensemble:
Ya” in center with drum.
in the Water” singing and moving clockwise in inside circle, performing
moving (grapevine) counter-clockwise in outside circle, and singing.
After performance, discuss the three cultures represented and how they might
to the creation of the Afro-American Symphony. (All three cultures
historically oppressed people.)
Students are given copies of the poetry (in Appendix) and asked to “translate” the
verses into “standard English.” Some selections are read.
questions (as listed above)
are suggested for discussion.
While the Symphony is played in its entirety, (24:10 minutes) students engage
reflecting writing about their own reaction to the music, discussions, taken
place in the three lessons. (If time is
constrained, only one or two of the
movements may be played.)
II., III., Students are evaluated by engagement and participation in singing,
and playing instruments.
IV. Reflective writings serve as Unit evaluation.
The three songs indicated are in public domain.)
I. St. Louis Blues (W.C. Handy) Lyrics:
St. Louis Blues
W. C. Handy
in 1925 by Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong)
I hate to see that evenin’ sun go down,
I hate to see that evenin’ sun go down,
It makes me think I’m on my last
Feelin’ tomorrow, like I feel today,
Feelin’ tomorrow, like I feel today,
I’ll pack my grip and make my getaway.
St. Louis woman, with her diamond rings,
Pulls my man around by her apron strings.
Wasn’t for powder and this store-bought
man I love wouldn’t go nowhere, nowhere.
got the St. Louis blues, just as blue as I can be,
He’s got a heart like a rock cast
in the sea,
Or else he wouldn’t of gone so far from me.
II. Poetry by Paul Laurence Dunbar ( 1872-1906) as chosen by
W.G. Still and
assigned to each of the four movements of the “Afro-American”
Symphony (No. 1.) (Complete Works
of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1993.) Philadelphia,
Pa.: Hakim’s Publications)
Moderato assai (very moderate in tempo)
my life long twell de night has pas’
de wo’k come ez it will,
dat I fin’ you, my honey, at las’,
des ovah de hill.
(from “Twell de Night is Pas”)
II: Adagio (slow tempo)
It’s moughty tiahsome layin’ ‘roun’
Dis sorer-lade earfly groun’,
oftentimes I thinks, thinks I,
be a sweet t’ing des to die,
An’ go ‘long home.
“W’en I Gits Home”)
III: Animato (lively and animated)
we’ll shout ouah halleluyahs,
On dat mighty reck’nin’
(from “An Ante-bellum Sermon”)
Lento, con risoluzione (slow with determination)
Be proud, my Race, in mind and soul.
name is writ on Glory’s scroll
In characters of
High mid the clouds of Fame’s bright sky
blazoned folds now fly,
And truth shall lit them higher.
(from “Ode to Ethiopia”)
Biographical Notes on William Grant Still
Long known as the Dean of American Negro composers, William Grant Still was
born in Woodville Mississippi on May 11, 1895 to parents who were teachers and musicians. They
were of Negro, Indian, Spanish, Irish and Scotch ancestry. Still’s father
died when William was an infant. His mother remarried and the family moved to
Little Rock, Arkansas, where his mother taught English in a high school. Still
began violin lessons as a young child and was proficient on a number of musical instruments throughout his life.
Still’s mother encouraged him to pursue medicine, which he did at Wilberforce University
in Ohio. He left Wilberforce two months before graduation
to play in various orchestras. After a stint in the Navy, he began to
work in Memphis with W.C. Handy, the “father of the blues,” arranging “Beale
Street Blues” and “St. Louis Blues.” He began filling notebooks with musical ideas.
After studying at Oberlin on scholarship, he moved to New York where he earned money performing
and arranging popular music. Still worked with Don Voorhees, Sophie Tucker,
Willard Robison and Artie Shaw, among others. While in Boston playing oboe in
the “Shuffle Along” orchestra, Still applied to study at the New England Conservatory.
He entered the Conservatory on scholarship and studied with the noted ultra-modern composer,
W. G. Still’s musical
career began to have enormous output. In the twenties, he made his first appearances as a serious
composer in New York, and began a valued friendship with Dr. Howard Hanson of Rochester.
Extended Guggenheim and Rosenwald Fellowships were given to him, as well as commissions
from the Columbia Broadcasting System, the New York World’s Fair of 1939, Paul Whiteman,
the League of Composers, the Cleveland Orchestra, and the Southern Conference Education Fund.
In 1944 he won the Jubilee prize of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra for the best overture to celebrate
its Jubilee season, with a work called “Festive Overture.” In 1953,
a Freedoms Foundation Award came to him for his “To You, America!” which honored West
Point’s Sesquicentennial Celebration.
In Los Angeles
during the thirties, while he was composing music for movies, he began working on
his first symphony. He was dedicated to the idea of fusing the blues and spiritual idioms into classic
forms. His symphony No. 1 (Afro-American) became his signature piece,
cited for its use of blues progressions and the unusual addition of the banjo in the third movement.
After completion, Still added to each movement, stanzas of poetry by Paul Laurence Dunbar,
an African-American poet who Still greatly admired. First performed in 1933,
the symphony was heralded as the first major piece of music composed by a Negro to be played before
an American audience.
Still is credited for over
150 compositions, including operas, ballets, symphonies, chamber works, solo vocal works, and a number of arrangements
of folk themes, especially Negro spirituals. He was the first black American
to conduct an all-white network radio orchestra, and the first to conduct a major American orchestra
in a concert of his own works. (Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl
in 1936.) He was the first black American to have an opera performed by a major
opera company. (New York City Opera produced “Troubled Island” in 1949.) His opera
“Bayou Legend” was televised over Public Television in 1981; another first.
spite of receiving a number of honorary degrees, awards, and critical distinctions, Still was still the recipient
of major racial discrimination. Traveling through the south with other musicians or
with his family, he was not allowed to eat in restaurants, use public restrooms, or stay overnight
in hotels. He had great difficulty publishing his music and having his compositions
regarded as “mainstream” American compositions during his lifetime. Still
died in 1978 at the age of 83.
William Grant Still remained positive and courageous throughout
his life. He wrote in 1970: “I’ve always found
it wise to go on my own way, doing the best that I can, and trusting that God will eventually show people the
errors of their ways, for I am convinced that we must all work together harmoniously. Only
in this way can America’s greatness reach its zenith. Make no mistake
about it: the future of our music is tied immutably to that of the individual
musician, and the future of the race as a whole is bound up in the future of America.
What is good for our nation is good for the race. We must never let
ourselves think otherwise, not allow ourselves to be duped into a separatist philosophy, no matter how frustrated we may
feel. We and our fellow Americans are in this together. As
Americans with Negro blood, we are willing and able to contribute something of value to America.
Those of us in the field of music know that our music has already proved to be a distinctive
contribution. ...We have an investment in this nation.”
deLerma, Dominique-Rene (1970) Black Music in our Culture. Ohio: Kent
State University Press, quoted in William Grant Still and the Fusion of Cultures in American Music:1995.
Robert Bartlett, Ed., (1972) William Grant Still and the Fusion of Cultures in American Music.
Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press.
Handy, W. C. Ed.,
(1949, 1972) Blues: An Anthology. New York: Collier
Lomax, Alan (1993)
The Land Where the Blues Began. New York: Pantheon
Smith, Catherine Parsons (2000)
William Grant Still: A Study in Contradictions. Berkeley, Calif.:
University of California Press.
Still, Judith Anne, Ed. (1995) William Grant Still
and the Fusion of Cultures in American Music (2nd Edition.) Flagstaff,
Arizona: The Master-Player Library.
on Still can be found through:
Grant Still Music
4 S. San
V. Georgia Quality Core Curriculum: Grades 9 –
12 Character Education
1. Topic: Citizenship
Democracy: government of, by and for the people,
through the voting process.
2. Topic: Citizenship
for and acceptance of authority: the
for and primacy of authority, including the law, in given
3. Topic: Citizenship
Equality: the right and opportunity to develop
potential as a human being.
4. Topic: Citizenship
of conscience and expression: the right
hold beliefs, whether religious, ethical or political, and to
5. Topic: Citizenship
Justice: equal and impartial treatment under the law.
6. Topic: Citizenship
Liberty: freedom from oppression, tyranny or the
7. Topic: Citizenship
the allowable deviation from a
Indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or
with one's own.
8. Topic: Citizenship
support of the U.S. Constitution and
for the United States of America with zealous guarding
their authority and interests.
Courage: willingness to face danger with determination.
Loyalty: steadfastness or faithfulness to a person,
custom or idea to which one is tied by duty,
or a promise.
Honor: a keen sense of ethical conduct, one's word
given as a guarantee of
9. Topic: Citizenship
Respect for the Natural Environment: care for
conservation of land, trees, clean air and pure water
and of all living inhabitants
of the earth.
Conservation: avoiding waste and pollution of natural
10. Topic: Citizenship
Respect for the Creator
11. Topic: Respect for Others
Altruism: concern for and motivation to act for
welfare of others.
Civility and cheerfulness: courtesy and politeness in
Compassion, kindness and generosity: concern for
or distress of others and response to their feeling
Courtesy and cooperation: recognition of mutual
with others resulting in polite treatment
respect for them.
12. Topic: Respect for Others
Integrity: confirmed virtue and uprightness of
freedom from hypocrisy.
Honesty: truthfulness and sincerity.
Truth: freedom from deceit or falseness; based on fact
Trustworthiness: worthy of confidence.
Fairness and good sportsmanship: freedom from
self-interest, or indulgence of one's likes and
abiding by the rules of a contest and accepts
or defeat graciously.
Patience: not being hasty or impetuous.
13. Topic: Respect for Self
Accountability: responsibility for one's actions
Commitment: being emotionally, physically or
bound to something.
Perseverance and diligence: adherence to actions
and their consequences.
Self control and virtue: exercising authority over one's
Frugality: effective use of resources; thrift.
Respect for Self
Self-Esteem: pride and belief in oneself and in
of one's potential.
Knowledge: learning, understanding, awareness.
Moderation: avoidance of unreasonably extreme views
Respect for physical, mental and fiscal health:
awareness of the importance of and conscious activity
maintaining fitness in these areas.
Cleanliness: good habits of personal hygiene and
15. Topic: Respect for Self
Work Ethic: belief that work is good and that
who can, should work.
Punctuality: being on time for attendance and tasks.
Accomplishment: appreciation for completing a task.
Cooperation: working with others for mutual benefit.
Dependability: reliability; trustworthiness.
Diligence: attentiveness; persistence; perseverance.
Pride: dignity; self-respect; doing one's best.
Productivity: supporting one's self, contributing to
Creativity: exhibiting an entrepreneurial spirit
originality; not bound by the norm.
School pride: playing a contributing role in maintaining
improving all aspects of a school's environment,
and activities within the context of contributing to
betterment of the city, county and state.
(For more information see: www.glc.k12.ga.us)
National Standards in Music Education (Music Educator’s National
Singing alone and with others, a varied repertoire
on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
Improvising melodies, variations, and accompaniments.
Composing and arranging music within specified guidelines.
and notating music.
Listening to, analyzing, and describing music.
Evaluating music and music performances.
Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the
9. Understanding music in relation to history
(For more information see: www.menc.org )