William Grant Still (1895-1978)
William Grant Still also grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, and also had a strong friendship with Langston Hughes. An oboist, arranger, conductor, and composer of jazz and popular music themes, Still was the first African American to conduct a major American orchestra, the first to have a symphony performed by a leading national ensemble, the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company (New York City Opera), and the first to have an opera performed on national television. Still attended Wilberforce University and Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and was a student of George Whitefield Chadwick and later Edgard Varèse. Jazz and the blues are incorporated extensively in his most well-known work, the Symphony No. 1 “Afro-American,” which premiered in 1931.