“William Grant Still’s ancestors were plantation slaves … far from the concert stages of New York and Los Angeles, where he would rise as the preeminent African American classical composer of his day,” writes Jeffrey Fleishman in Thursday’s (2/14) Los Angeles Times. “The L.A. Phil will perform the ‘Afro-American Symphony’ on Saturday and Still’s Symphony No. 4 on Sunday … conducted by Thomas Wilkins…. Wilkins: He certainly knows how to write in other styles, but he is true to his own heritage in both the ‘Afro-American Symphony’ and the Fourth Symphony…. Other composers used folk music. Dvořák. Mahler. Q: Coming up in the classical world as an African American, what kind of prejudice and discrimination did you encounter? Wilkins: I’m sure that I have not gotten opportunities because of the color of my skin…. I can’t spend a lot of time wallowing in that. Q: How does [Still’s] work and the work of other African American or minority composers fit into this? Wilkins: Don’t validate that music only in February during Black History Month…. Don’t have Negro night at the symphony or Mexican night at the symphony. Just add this repertoire to the canon.”

Posted February 15, 2019