Winning the Pulitzer Prize for Music is one of the multitude of richly deserved tributes to composer, pianist, and educator George TheophilusWalker. His prolific career continues into his 90s with his commissioned SinfoniaNo. 4 (Strands), premiered in 2012 by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.
George Theophilus Walker was born June 27, 1922 in Washington, D.C. to George T.and Rosa Walker. His father emigrated from Jamaica and became a prominent physician.His mother began his obligatory piano lessons at five years old. He grew to lovemusic and entered Oberlin School of Music at 14, receiving a B.M. degree with classhonors in 1941.
Walker entered the Curtis Institute of Music, and in 1945 became its first black student to graduate. He studied under Serkin, Horszowski, Piatigorsky, and Primrose.That year his New York debut recital in Town Hall was followed with another debutwhere he played 3rd Piano Concerto of Rachmaninoff with the Philadelphia Orchestra.Walker then attended Eastman School of Music where he received a Doctor of MusicalArts Degree in 1956. In 1957 he traveled to study in France including privatelywith Nadea Boulanger.
His academic appointments include professorships at Smith College, the Universityof Colorado, and the University of Delaware where he held the first Minority Chairat that institution. He was appointed Chairof the Music Department, Rutgers University-Newark in 1975. He became a Distinguished Professor there in 1976and retired from its faculty in 1992.
Over his career Walker published over 90 works including sonatas for piano, a masscantata, songs, organ pieces, choral works, sonatas for cello, violin and viola,and works for brass and woodwinds. Paul Kapp, at General Music Publishing, was firstto publish the bulk of his work in 1971. Publication with General Music Publishing, a leading classical music publishinghouse, was crucial to his finally gaining critical recognition. In the 1970s AfricanAmerican conductor Paul Freeman began to issue recordings of Walker’s orchestralmusic.