Arkansas composers Florence Price and William Grant Still topic of noon Clinton School program today

In advance of the Beethoven & Blue Jeans concert, join conductor Andrew Grams and Linda Holzer, professor of music at University of Arkansas at Little Rock, on a discussion about the music of Arkansas composers William Grant Still and Florence Price.

It will take place at 12 noon at the Clinton School of Public Service.

American conductor Andrew Grams has steadily built a reputation for his dynamic concerts, ability to connect with audiences, and long-term orchestra building. He’s the winner of 2015 Conductor of the Year from the Illinois Council of Orchestras and has led orchestras throughout the United States. Now in his 7th ESO season, Andrew Grams became music director of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra after an international search.

Florence Price was the first African-American female composer to have a symphonic composition performed by a major American symphony orchestra. Born in Little Rock in 1887, she was valedictorian of her class at Little Rock’s Capitol Hill School.  After college, she returned to Little Rock, was married, and established a music studio, taught piano lessons, and wrote short pieces for piano.

The Prices moved to Chicago, Illinois, in 1927. There, Price seemed to have more professional opportunity for growth despite the breakdown and eventual dissolution of her marriage.  In 1928, G. Schirmer, a major publishing firm, accepted for publication Price’s “At the Cotton Gin.” After winning several composition awards, she had a piece premiere with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on June 15, 1933.

Price’s art songs and spiritual arrangements were frequently performed by well-known artists of the day. For example, contralto Marian Anderson featured Price’s spiritual arrangement “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord” in her famous performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939. European orchestras later played Price’s works.

William Grant Still was long known as the Dean of African American composers. Though not born in Little Rock, he spent much of his youth in the city.

Dr. Still, who wrote more than 150 compositions ranging from operas to arrangements of folk themes, is best known as a pioneer. He was the first African-American in the United States to have a symphonic composition performed by a major orchestra.

He was the first African American to conduct a major symphony orchestra in the US; the first to conduct a major symphony in the south; first to conduct a white radio orchestra in New York City; first to have an opera produced by a major company. Dr. Still was also the first African-American to have an opera televised over a national network