Who was the first black composer to have an opera performed by a major orchestra?

William Grant Still (1895–1978) was the first black to have a symphony performed by a major orchestra, when on October 29,1931, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra presented his first work—The Afro-American Symphony. Born in Woodville, Mississippi, Still studied at Wilberforce University, Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and the New England Conservatory of Music. He worked in a great variety of musical settings, from playing in dance and theater orchestras to supplying arrangements of popular music for black show people. He was also a prolific composer in the art music tradition, writing more than 150 compositions. In 1936 Still was the first black to conduct a major symphony orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and became the first black American to have an opera performed by a major opera company, in 1949, when the New York City Opera put on Troubled Island.


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