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William Grant Still Quotes


William Grant Still
  • Mini Bio
  • Name: William Grant Still
  • Born: 11th May 1895, Woodville, Mississippi, USA
  • Died: 3rd December 1978, Los Angeles, California, USA
  • Occupation: Composer and conductor
  • Notable achievements: Receiving two Guggenheim Fellowships
  • Nickname: The Dean of Afro-American Composers
  • Movie scores: Pennies from Heaven (1936) and Lost Horizon (1937)
  • Best known for: His 5 symphonies and 8 operas
  • Scroll down for full bio and many great quotes

"I believe that the use of a theme in Blues idiom in a work of this sort for the purpose of welding it together is absolutely unique. And its rhythmic interest should prove to be equally as great as its melodic interest"

William Grant Still

"When I began my career as a serious composer in New York, the general feeling was that all of us on the scene at that time were making a contribution to something uniquely and definitely American"

William Grant Still

"Undoubtedly the word [jazz] is of French origin for both it and the eccentric style of to which it was applied were introduced in the Northern section of the U.S. by Creole musicians"

William Grant Still

"Let me say here, before I go further, that my wife and I work together so close that I always say we, and I think that some people don’t understand"

William Grant Still

"As I see it the music of the American Negro has resulted from the union of the religious songs you mentioned and the primitive songs of Africa"

William Grant Still

"For me there is no White music or Black music - there is only music by individual men that is important if it attempts to dignify all men, not just a particular race"

William Grant Still

"I don't know what people mean by 'Black music'. Are they saying that Negroes can only write music in a certain way?"

William Grant Still

"I have expanded this into a development of music of the entire Western Hemisphere - in short of the Americas, rather than just North America"

William Grant Still

"My arrangement did not sound well. But who knows how it will sound on the air tonight tells the tale"

William Grant Still

"I harbor no delusions as to the triviality of Blues, the secular folk music of the American Negro"

William Grant Still

"I didn’t come into contact with much Negro music until I had become of age and had entered professional work"

William Grant Still

"I seek in the 'Afro-American Symphony' to portray not the higher type of colored American, but the sons of the soil"

William Grant Still

"I have what I believe is a good libretto. Can tell better after a professional librettist has examined it"

William Grant Still

"It was my good fortune, to be a part of the jazz world when I was young, and when jazz itself was new"

William Grant Still

"This was the gift of New England to the freed Negro: not alms, but a friend; not cash, but character"

William Grant Still

"I am working now on the score of La Guiablesse. The scenario is based on a legend of Martinique"

William Grant Still

"For a long time I’ve wished to add my voice to those that are now protesting against lynching"

William Grant Still

"It was [Chadwick] more than anyone else who inspired me to write American music"

William Grant Still

"It is unfortunate for a man of color who is ambitious to live in America"

William Grant Still

"It was my mother who insisted that I practice regularly"

William Grant Still

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William Grant Still Biography

William Grant Still was successful in breaking down musical barriers that saw him become the first Afro American to have a symphony performed by a professional orchestra when his Symphony no. 1 "Afro-American" first soothed the ears of audiences in 1930.



In another first he became the first Afro American to conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl in 1936.

Still brought a freshness to the classical scene with his fusion of jazz and blues with traditional classical music as he drew on all his musical experiences to create refreshing new music that audiences craved to see.

William's mentor was George Chadwick who encouraged him to embrace the down to earth music from his cultural roots and blend it with more traditional classical sounds which resulted in some epic sounds that were appreciated in music halls and opera houses around the world.

His lifetime passion for music saw him become a multi instrumentalist and after reading a large section of his (available online) written correspondence it is clear to see he was also an erudite wordsmith with impeccable manners, he was good for quick quip too so this is my compilation of 20 of the best William Grant Still quotes

Quotes About William Grant Still

The author Earnest Lamb talked of Still's position in the annuls of musical history: "The unique consequence of cataloging his achievements, venerates his position as an iconoclast while detracting critical attention from his music"

The music critic Irving Schwerké was impressed to say: "Your AFRICA was the sensation of the Festival. It had a success and was comprehended, as I have never before seen. Throughout the length and breadth of Germany it has been written about in the most wonderful manner"

The author Gayle Murchison made this observation of his musical education: "This free tutelage of Still by Chadwick can be viewed as a form of patronage. Still consequently was never formally enrolled in New England Conservatory. His status was that of a private student of Chadwick’s"

The librettist Verna Arvey made this brief comment: "He does not dedicate music lightly"

The critic Stewart R. Sabin was inspired to write: "The choral ballet is a vividly impressive work. Mr. Still . . . has written a musical score that appeals as one of the most direct and lucid in dramatic suggestion of recent compositions of its sort. . . . Mr. Still gives evidence of an excellent sense of dramatic appeal in stage music, and he wastes no time or measures on music that does not count in the drama"

Amy S. Croughton wrote a short press review: "Mr. Still's score is a most interesting one, dramatically effective and having distinct racial qualities"


William Grant Still quote