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George Walker illustration

Illustration by Dane Thibeault

Celebrating Black Composers: George Walker

February 13, 2024

Last month, the TSO proudly presented George Walker’s Sinfonia No.2 as a part of our Trifonov Plays Brahms program. This Black History Month, Noteworthy is celebrating the significant contributions that Black composers have made to the history, cultivation, and appreciation of orchestral music. This series continues with American composer George Walker!

Born in Washington, DC, George Walker (1922–2018) was a Pulitzer Prize—winning composer, pianist, and academic. Throughout his career, Walker contended with barriers of systemic racism to become the first Black graduate of Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied piano and composition; the first Black instrumentalist to appear as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra; and the first Black composer to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Music (for Lilacs for Voice and Orchestra in 1996). His nearly 100 compositions range from solo piano pieces and art songs to concertos and symphonic works, the latter of which have been performed by virtually every major American orchestra, in England, and elsewhere.

Last year, Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser — our Barrett Principal Education Conductor & Community Ambassador — took a moment to reflect on what Walker found most important about all of his accomplishments:

Black History Month | George Walker