Juneteenth is now a federal holiday, in celebration of the announcement on June 19th, 1865, in Texas that enslaved Americans were free, two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect.
Two and a half years!
I want to share with you work by William Grant Still, a man of many firsts, many of them huge successes. As a teenager, he began to take violin lessons, and went on to teach himself various other instruments. In college, he first pursued a degree in science, but the pull of music was too strong, and he attended Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where the faculty established a scholarship just for him. He became successful instrumentalist and a prolific composer: popular music, music for film, solo instruments, ballet and opera, chamber ensembles and symphonies and choral works.
Still is known for his first symphony, Afro-American Symphony, which was, until 1950, the most widely performed symphony composed by an American.
One of his operas, Troubled Island, made history as the first by an American composer to be performed by the New York City Opera.
William Still was married twice, in his second marriage to the journalist and pianist Verna Arvey, with whom he had to elope to Tijuana for the ceremony because interracial marriage was illegal in California.
There is so much to celebrate, and so much left to do. Together.
The Dranoff 2 Piano Foundation