William Grant Still: A review of literature and a proposed unit of study




Simpson, Mary Lou

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It was the purpose of this study to project the life and works of William Grant Still, who has held to high ideals and standards, amid tmdue hardships. It was the hope of the reviewer to show to readers with similar underpriveliged backgrounds, that perseverance and hard work transcend all obstacles, and that all who will assume initiative can endure. There are probably very few firsts which are not a part of William Grant Still's biography. He was the first Black man to compose for a major symphony orchestra, the first in the United States to have a full-length grand opera produced by a major company, and the first to conduct a white radio orchestra. Still merits respect, not because he was the first or Black, but because of the quality of his music and the humility of greatness that he possesses. He is by nature a philosopher. The sum of Still's ideal is the study of life with a view to lea.ming that which will enable him to make his life more serviceable to him and to mankind. In this study, literature on Black musicians was reviewed to select a composer who has made significant impact on the musical culture. Books, periodicals, and unpublished resources were reviewed to provide background on the biographical and musical contributions of the composer, and to focus on the composer's essential style and artistic contributions. Phonograph records, score music teaching resources, were reviewed to select appropriate materials for the unit of study. A course of study for use in the elementary grades was constructed by the reviev,er. A unit of study suitable for fourth grade students was proposed on selected works of William Grant Still. The selections included in the study were "Scherzo", from the Afro-American Symphony; the Lenox Avenue ballet; "Lament" for piano and voice; and the Troubled Island opera. The musical compositions treated in the study have been selected according to their availability.



Black musicians, Afro-American Symphony, Lenox Avenue ballet, Troubled Island opera