- - - - - - - - - Boosting Student Engagement, Knowledge, Skills & Character

Unit - William Grant Still - The Afro-American Symphony
Starting or Continuing Your Journey
Who Am I? / What's New & How to UseThis Website?
Hong Kong & China: Reflections and Plans - Hong Kong, Foshan, Guangzhou, Liannan, and Zhongshan
Schools & Projects
Prompts, Modules & Courses
Standards & Assessment
Research & Resources
Lesson Banks: Finding or Creating - INSTRUCTIONAL UNITS
Other Working Papers & 'Projects'
Findings, Quotes & Reflections
Search BenjaminSystems Website

Enter subhead content here

William Grant Still: Character Through the Classics 

Barbara Hammond

Kennesaw State University

(1/26/04)  edited version


This 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.


Masterwork:  Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American) by William Grant Still


Concept:  Relationships – Between races in America, between art forms, and between academic disciplines


Significant Question:  In what ways are we as a people living up to our creed, and what still needs doing?


Classical Masterwork: Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American) by William Grant Still

Supplementary Masterworks:

            Symphony No. 41 (The Jupiter) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

“St. Louis Blues” by W.C. Handy as sung by Bessie Smith

“Wade in the Water,”  African American Spiritual arranged by William

            Grant Still in “Little Folk Suites”


Character Topics and Standards:

(*State of Georgia QCCs:  see Appendix, p. 22-24)


Citizenship (equality, freedom of expression, liberty: freedom from  oppression,

 tolerance, courage, honor)

Respect for Others (integrity, fairness: freedom from favoritism)

Respect for Self  (commitment, perseverance and diligence, accomplishment,

pride, dignity, creativity)


Music Education Knowledge and Skill Topics:

(*National Standards, Music Education National Conference  [MENC]:

see Appendix p. 25)


            Lesson I-V:  Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and

                                     disciplines outside the arts.

                                  Understanding music in relation to history and culture.


Lesson I :  Listening to, analyzing, playing instruments (related to the Blues


                               Singing alone and with others

                               Improvising melodies

                               Performing on instruments


            Lesson II:  Analyzing music (Sonata Form)

                               Singing alone and with others


            Lesson III/IV:  Listening to, analyzing, and describing music

                                      Singing alone and with others


            Lesson V:    Singing alone and with others

                                 Performing on Instruments

                                 (Reflective writing—describing music)

                                 (Creative moving)





Deepening Questions:

Inquiry/Questions (For reflection and discussion throughout content of unit.)



I.  What differences do you perceive in the creation and performance of traditional

African American music and European-derived symphonic music?


II  What differences do you perceive in the role of the audience during

performances of traditional African American music and symphonic music?


III.  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

previously identified with a specific cultural community of  people, what

character traits might the composer exhibit?  What cultural “objections”

might be encountered, and how might they be expressed?


Under what circumstances are the different metaphors for America, a melting pot or a mixed salad, appropriate?



Unit Goals:

(Reflecting cross disciplines of Music, Art, Poetry, Character Education.)


I.     The student will play, sing, and analyze music in the Blues genre.

II.   The student will write text to a blues melody.

III.  The student will have opportunities to reflect upon ethical issues of “borrowing


IV.   The student will analyze the sonata form using Mozart Symphony No. 41.

V.    The student will discover through hands-on experiences and discussion the

themes, form, and structure of William Grant Still’s Symphony No. 1 “Afro-


VI.   The student will discuss and reflect upon the life and times of William Grant Still

            and the influences of the culture upon his music.

VII.   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.

VIII.  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.

IX.    The student will reflect upon the stanzas of poetry by Paul Laurence Dunbar

      and the relevance to the understanding of the expressive meaning of

      Still’s Symphony No. 1.

 X.    The student will discuss the art print, “The Banjo Player” by Tanner, and its

 aesthetic connection to the Symphony No. 1 by Still.

XI.    The student will reflect upon broad cultural implications of respect, courage,

      creative freedom and tolerance.


Lesson I:



I.   After listening to a recording of Bessie Smith singing “St. Louis Blues, “  the student

will discuss the style, mood, and lyrics inherent in the music.

II.  The 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.

V.  The student will role play the “selling” of their work and discuss “creative


VI. The student will reflect and discuss ethical questions regarding the “borrowing” of

musical ideas and recorded music.


Materials:       Orff instruments (removable bars) and/or auto harps.

                        Photograph of William Grant Still

Recordings:  Legends of the Blues, Vol. 1, Columbia # 46215;

   William Grant Still Symphony No. 1 “Afro American,” Detroit

    Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Jarvi,  Conductor,  Chandos #9154.

Photograph of William Grant Still

Original words of “St. Louis Blues” on transparency (See Appendix, p. 15)

“Fake” money (“Music Bucks”)

            Transparency sheets, pens

                        Web Sites for reference:

                                     (Music Publishers Association)







I.   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:

        Facilitator plays a recording of Bessie Smith singing “St. Louis Blues.”

        Guided questions:

          What style of music do you hear?

          What ethnic group of people do you relate to this style?

          What other styles of music do you think reflect the human expressive aspects of the

African American tradition, prior to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s?

(In addition to the blues are spirituals, “cries,” “hollers,” work songs,

 “jubilations,” 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 W.C. Handy?

        What might this man have in common with the Blues style?

          (W. C. 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

  men during the early 20th century.)

IV.  Students 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.”

          (Optional:  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)

          William Grant Still:  A Study in Contradictions.)



             Do you hear similarities between “St. Louis Blues” and the opening melody of

                  the “African American Symphony”?

             Was a melody borrowed?  If so, who borrowed from who? Was it legal?  Was it


             What differences in musical style do you hear in the two pieces?  Do these

       stylistic differences change the way you think about the melody?

  (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 act?

      Is it legal and/or ethical to “download” recorded music from the internet?

      What is the difference between “borrowing” musical ideas illegally and

       “borrowing” musical ideas unethically?

      Do you feel that William Grant Still “borrowed” ideas?




            Objectives I, II:  Students will be evaluated by active discussion and


            Objective III:  Students will be evaluated by quality of parodied lyrics.

            Objective IV:  Students will be evaluated by instrumental performance.

            Objectives V, VI:  Students will be evaluated by reflective discussion

                        and/or writing.



Lesson II:



I.                   The student will sing the African American spiritual, “Wade in the Water.”

II.                After listening to W. Grant Still’s string quartet arrangement of “Wade in

The Water,” the student will discern compositional and performance similarities and differences from the original song.

III.             The student will discern the musical structure (form) of the string quartet

 arrangement of  “Wade in the Water.”

IV.             The student will view the video tape, Leonard Bernstein’s Young Peoples’

Concert “What is Sonata Form?”

V.                The student hold up “form cards” in order to participate with the students in the Bernstein video tape audience.

VI.             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.”


Materials:       Music for song, “Wade in the Water,”  (See p. 16)   

                        CD Recording:  Oregon Festival of American Music Presents: William

                          Grant Still, Oregon String Quartet, Koch Recording # 3-7546-2HI.

                        Video Tape:  Leonard Bernstein Young People’s Concert, “What is

                           Sonata Form?” (edited to 30 minutes.)

                        Cards with “form” words consistent with sonata form:  Exposition,

                          Development, Exposition, etc.





Inquiry/Questions (to be developed:)


I.                    What are some common structures (form) in music that can cross styles of


II.                 How do the arts reflect the structure of human daily lives?

III.             What structural decisions are made by a composer in designing a musical piece?  (Repetition, Variation, Contrast)




I.                   Review content and experiences from Lesson I, discussing process, blues

             form, and insights into the “ethics” of borrowing creative products.

II.                 Suggested remarks:

“We looked at the generic form of a Blues.  We will now explore another

 structure that seems to cross over styles of music.

III.             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)

Discuss differences.  (No text, string instruments, some minor changes  in basic melody, and contrasting melodic change in middle part of piece.)

IV.             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

  some contrasting.

V.                Play the Still arrangement of “Wade---“ again, asking students to raise their

 hand each time they hear the original melody of “Wade in the Water.”

Students discern that the musical form of the piece is:

Introduction, A, A, B, A, Coda. (Still structured the string quartet arrangement

 into a “traditional” European musical form:  Ternary.

VI.             We will now explore that European form in a symphony by Mozart:

 Symphony No. 41 “The Jupiter.”  As you watch the video tape of Leonard

 Bernstein conducting the orchestra, note the names of the various sections

 used, rather than A and B.

(Play 30 minute edited version of Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concert, “What is Sonata Form?”)

VII.          During the viewing, pass out cards with Exposition, Development,

Recapitulation, etc. in order for the students to participate with the film


VIII.       After viewing the tape, discuss the ternary form and symphony (sonata)

Form.  Rather than ABA, the sections are Exposition, Development, and


IX.             Our next experience in Lesson III will explore the Symphony No. 1 of William Grant Still and the “melding” of musical style.



            Objective I:  Students will be evaluated by active participation in the song.

            Objective II:  Students will be evaluated by active discussion.

            Objective III, IV, V:  Students will be evaluated by discussion, and

                        description of musical form.


Lesson III:




I.   The student will identify mood, style and tone color contained in movements three

and four of William Grant Still’s Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American.)

II.  The student will discuss cultural stereotypes which lead to misunderstanding and

 lack of respect.

III. The students will read, discuss, and compare the excerpts of poetry by Paul

Laurence Dunbar as attributed to movements three and four of the Symphony

 No. 1 by Still.


Materials:      Recording:       William Grant Still Symphony No. 1

   “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. 18)

Large posters of four families of musical instruments




I.    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?

II.   What does the music say about the life of William Grant Still and his education?

III.  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

Laurence Dunbar?  (Stanza for 3rd movement is in dialect;  stanza for

4th is in “standard English.”)







I.   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

about it.   (Play 3rd movement of the Symphony. 3:05 minutes)

            Questions:  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?

            (After discussion) When you know that this music was written by an

            African-American man in the 1930’s, what challenges, problems, and

            influences might be evident in his music?  Is this typical music of the African

            American culture?  What music IS typical?   (Blues, Jazz, Spirituals)

III.  Briefly give highlights of the life of composer William Grant Still, his

            music and education.   (See Appendix p. 19)

IV.  Have students read the two stanzas of poetry assigned to the 3rd and 4th movements

            of music.   Ask students to compare the poetry.  Does the poetry help you

            to predict the mood and “flavor” of the 4th movement, before hearing it?

V.   Play the 4th movement of the Symphony. (8:13 minutes.)  As the students listen,

            have them list some of the instruments they hear along with descriptive words

            they might assign to the movement that would express their perception of the

            mood 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.)

VII.  After hearing the 3rd and 4th movements of the symphony, what would be student’s

            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

            character?    (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.





Lesson IV:




I.   After reviewing material from Lesson III, the student will identify the themes,

 form, and structure of  the 1st Movement of W.G. Still’s “Afro-American Symphony.

II.  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.

        (Tolerance, respect, creativity.)


Materials:       CD:  W. G. Still: Symphony No. 1 “Afro American”

                        Listening Outline Sheets

                        Icons (cut out and placed in plastic bags.)

                        Teacher Key (Outline sheet of Symphony No. 1, Form)




I.    How did William Grant Still express his life experiences, culture, musical training

through his music?

II.   In what ways did Mr. Still attempt through his composition to gain acceptance in

the broad field of musical performance? 

III.  Why did Mr. Still have difficulty publishing and performing his music?

IV.  Would 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





I.   Review material from Lesson I  from discussion of W.G. Still, Blues,

            Spirituals,  and the ideas of the poetry assigned.

II.  Excerpt of the 1st movement of the Afro-American Symphony are played,

identifying the “blues” theme and the “spiritual” theme.  Students discuss differences in the two themes. (CD # :30-- blues theme;  CD # 2:25--spiritual


III. Identification of Form and Structure of Themes in 1st Movement:

1.      Students are given a listening outline sheet  (Introduction, Exposition of

Blues and Spiritual Themes, Development, Recapitulation, Bridges, and

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.)

2.      Piece is played with a verbal cue (number) to place a chosen cutout on the

appropriate spot on the outline.  (Teacher can refer to cue numbers on the CD player for accuracy in giving verbal numbers.)

3.      After completion of 1st movement, students discuss their decisions.

4.      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.)

IV.  Reflection:  Student re-reads the poetry assigned to the 1st movement.  Does it fit

with 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.)

VI.  Reflection:  What musical characteristics contribute to the feeling of pathos and

 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” form?

(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 creative ideas.)






I.   Students will identify the Themes, Form, and Structure by correctly placing cutouts

on Listening Guide.

II.  Students will compare music and poetry through discussion and questioning

by teacher.

III. Students will be evaluated on character traits and musical connections through

            reflective writing.
















Afro-American Symphony

Outline of 1st Movement

(CD # references to Chandos Recording 9154

Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Jarvi Conducting)


            (Total Minutes:  7:22)

1.  Introduction

2.  Blues Theme 1 (.30)

3.  Blues Theme  2 (1st Variation) (1.05)

4.  Bridge (1.37)

5.  Blues Theme 3 (2nd Variation) (1.48)

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 pronounced

10. Bridge (3.55)

11. Development (4.06)—cymbals introduce

12. Spiritual Theme 4 (3rd Variation) (5.05)

13. Bridge (5.34)

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.)




Listening Outline Sheet














































“Icon” Cutouts for

Listening Outline
















Introduction        Coda         Development




(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.)

Lesson V:




I.   The student will sing three songs:

            “Wade in the Water” from the African-American spiritual tradition.

            “Shalom Chavarim” from the Hebrew folk culture.

            “Hey Ya, Ho Ya,” a Native American chant.

II.  The student will perform an Israeli folk dance (simple grapevine step in circle) while

 singing “Shalom.”

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,

tolerance, fairness, creativity, and respect which have been suggested through the listening experiences with Symphony No. 1.



            Three songs:  “Wade in the Water,” “Shalom Chavarim,” and “Hey Ya,

 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.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Why would Still use the “dialect” version of the poetry?
  2. Why would Still use the “dialect” version of the poetry in the first three movements and not the fourth?
  3. “Translate” the stanzas written in dialect into standard English.   Does this change the meaning or emotional impact of the stanzas?
  4. 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?
  5. What implications can be made to the present time of the challenges faced by Mr.

Still in the writing, performance, and publication of his music?

  1. If Mr. Still were alive today, would he still face issues of intolerance?  If so, in what ways?




I.   After reviewing material from Lesson I and II, teach students three songs:

            “Wade in the Water” from the African-American spiritual tradition.

            “Shalom Chavarim” from the Hebrew folk culture.

            “Hey Ya, Ho Ya,” a Native American chant. (Notation included.)

II.  Teach students a simple Israeli folk dance step (grapevine) in circle, while

            singing “Shalom.”  (Holding hands in circle, begin right foot stepping to side;

            cross left behind right; step right, cross left in front of right; repeat.)

III.  Students can create improvisational body percussion and movement while walking

            In a circle and singing “Wade in the Water.”

IV.  Students sing “Hey Ya” in center of circles while several students play a large


V.   The three pieces will be performed all together in ensemble:

            “Hey Ya” in center with drum.

            “Wade in the Water” singing and moving clockwise in inside circle, performing

 improvisational movement.

            “Shalom” moving (grapevine) counter-clockwise in outside circle, and singing.

VI.  After performance, discuss the three cultures represented and how they might

            relate to the creation of the Afro-American Symphony.  (All three cultures

            represent historically oppressed people.)

VII. Students are given copies of the poetry (in Appendix) and asked to “translate” the

 dialect verses into “standard English.”   Some selections are read.  Reflective

 questions (as listed above) are suggested for discussion.

VIII. While the Symphony is played in its entirety, (24:10 minutes) students engage

in 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.) 





I., II., III.,  Students are evaluated by engagement and participation in singing,

            Moving, and playing  instruments.

IV.    Reflective writings serve as Unit evaluation.



(Note:  The three songs indicated are in public domain.)




I.  St. Louis Blues (W.C. Handy) Lyrics:



St. Louis Blues

W. C. Handy

(As recorded 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 go ‘round.


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 hair,

The man I love wouldn’t go nowhere, nowhere.


I 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)



Movement I:  Moderato assai (very moderate in tempo)



All my life long twell de night has pas’

Let de wo’k come ez it will,

So dat I fin’ you, my honey, at las’,

Somewhaih des ovah de hill.


(from “Twell de Night is Pas”)



Movement II:  Adagio  (slow tempo)



It’s moughty tiahsome layin’ ‘roun’

Dis sorer-lade earfly groun’,

An’ oftentimes I thinks, thinks I,

‘T‘would be a sweet t’ing des to die,

An’ go ‘long home.


(from “W’en I Gits Home”)


Movement III:  Animato (lively and animated)



An’ we’ll shout ouah halleluyahs,

On dat mighty reck’nin’ day.


(from “An Ante-bellum Sermon”)


Movement IV:  Lento, con risoluzione (slow with determination)



Be proud, my Race, in mind and soul.

Thy name is writ on Glory’s scroll

In characters of fire.

High mid the clouds of Fame’s bright sky

Thy banner’s blazoned folds now fly,

And truth shall lit them higher.


(from “Ode to Ethiopia”)



III.  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, Edgard Varese.


            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.


            In 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.” 

 (From 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.

p. 78)



IV. Bibliography


Haas, 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 Books.


Lomax, Alan (1993) The Land Where the Blues Began.  New York:  Pantheon Books.


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.


Additional Resources on Still can be found through:

            William Grant Still Music

            4 S. San Francisco Street

            Flagstaff, Arizona 86001





V.  Georgia Quality Core Curriculum: Grades 9 – 12 Character Education


   1. Topic: Citizenship

       Standard: Democracy: government of, by and for the people,

                         exercised through the voting process.

   2. Topic: Citizenship

        Standard: Respect for and acceptance of authority: the

                          need for and primacy of authority, including the law, in given


   3. Topic: Citizenship

         Standard: Equality: the right and opportunity to develop

                            one's potential as a human being.

   4. Topic: Citizenship

         Standard: Freedom of conscience and expression: the right

                            to hold beliefs, whether religious, ethical or political, and to

                            express one's views.                                                                

    5. Topic: Citizenship

          Standard: Justice: equal and impartial treatment under the law.                                                              

    6. Topic: Citizenship

          Standard: Liberty: freedom from oppression, tyranny or the

                            domination of government.

    7. Topic: Citizenship

           Standard: Tolerance: the allowable deviation from a

                            standard.  Indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or

                            conflicting with one's own.

     8. Topic: Citizenship

           Standard: Patriotism: support of the U.S. Constitution and

                            love for the United States of America with zealous guarding

                            of their authority and interests.

                            8.1 Courage: willingness to face danger with determination.

                            8.2 Loyalty: steadfastness or faithfulness to a person,

                            institution, custom or idea to which one is tied by duty,

                            pledge or a promise.

                            8.3 Honor: a keen sense of ethical conduct, one's word

                            given as a guarantee of performance.

       9. Topic: Citizenship

              Standard: Respect for the Natural Environment: care for

                            and conservation of land, trees, clean air and pure water

                            and of all living inhabitants of the earth.

                            9.1 Conservation: avoiding waste and pollution of natural


       10. Topic:  Citizenship

                Standard:  Respect for the Creator

 11. Topic: Respect for Others

                Standard: Altruism: concern for and motivation to act for

                              the welfare of others.

                              11.1 Civility and cheerfulness: courtesy and politeness in

                              action of speech.

                              11.2 Compassion, kindness and generosity: concern for

                              suffering or distress of others and response to their feeling

                              and needs.

                              11.3 Courtesy and cooperation: recognition of mutual

                              interdependence with others resulting in polite treatment

                              and respect for them.

          12. Topic: Respect for Others

                     Standard: Integrity: confirmed virtue and uprightness of

                              character, freedom from hypocrisy.

                              12.1 Honesty: truthfulness and sincerity.

                              12.2 Truth: freedom from deceit or falseness; based on fact

                              or reality.

                              12.3 Trustworthiness: worthy of confidence.

                              12.4 Fairness and good sportsmanship: freedom from

                              favoritism, self-interest, or indulgence of one's likes and

                              dislikes; abiding by the rules of a contest and accepts

                              victory or defeat graciously.

                              12.5 Patience: not being hasty or impetuous.

            13. Topic: Respect for Self

                     Standard: Accountability: responsibility for one's actions

                              and their consequences.

                              13.1 Commitment: being emotionally, physically or

                              intellectually bound to something.

                              13.2 Perseverance and diligence: adherence to actions

                              and their consequences.

                              13.3 Self control and virtue: exercising authority over one's

                              emotions and actions.

                              13.4 Frugality: effective use of resources; thrift.

             14. Topic: Respect for Self

                     Standard: Self-Esteem: pride and belief in oneself and in

                              achievement of one's potential.

                              14.1 Knowledge: learning, understanding, awareness.

                              14.2 Moderation: avoidance of unreasonably extreme views

                              or measures.

                              14.3 Respect for physical, mental and fiscal health:

                              awareness of the importance of and conscious activity

                              toward maintaining fitness in these areas.

                              14.4 Cleanliness: good habits of personal hygiene and


        15. Topic: Respect for Self

                      Standard: Work Ethic: belief that work is good and that

                              everyone who can, should work.

                              15.1 Punctuality: being on time for attendance and tasks.

                              15.2 Accomplishment: appreciation for completing a task.

                              15.3 Cooperation: working with others for mutual benefit.

                              15.4 Dependability: reliability; trustworthiness.

                              15.5 Diligence: attentiveness; persistence; perseverance.

                              15.6 Pride: dignity; self-respect; doing one's best.

                              15.7 Productivity: supporting one's self, contributing to


                              15.8 Creativity: exhibiting an entrepreneurial spirit

                              inventiveness; originality; not bound by the norm.

                              15.9 School pride: playing a contributing role in maintaining

                              and improving all aspects of a school's environment,

                              programs and activities within the context of contributing to

                              the betterment of the city, county and state.


(For more information see:



VI.  National Standards in Music Education  (Music Educator’s National
 Conference  (MENC)


1.      Singing alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.


2.      Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.


3.      Improvising melodies, variations, and accompaniments.


4.      Composing and arranging music within specified guidelines.


5.      Reading and notating music.


6.      Listening to, analyzing, and describing music.


7.      Evaluating music and music performances.


8.  Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the



9.  Understanding music in relation to history and culture.


(For more information see: )

Enter content here

Enter content here

Enter content here

Enter supporting content here