George Walker

The first African-American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Music, George Theophilus Walker is well-known for his winning piece, Lilacs, of 1996. The work is for soprano or tenor and orchestra and sets the text of Walt Whitman.

Photo: George Walker,

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Born in Washington D.C., George Walker began to play piano as a child and studied in the Junior Division of Howard University. He was admitted to Oberlin College following his first public piano recital at the age of 14. He later studied at the Curtis Institute, the American Conservatory, Fontainebleu (with Nadia Boulanger), and the Eastman School of Music, where he earned his D.M.A.

Walker is an accomplished pianist as well as composer, with many performance tours at home and abroad.

He has taught at several universities in the United States, his longest appointment at Rutgers University, from 1969 to 1992. He has received such prestigious fellowships as the Fulbright, Whitney, Guggenheim, Rockefeller and MacDowell. Walker received commissions from both the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic.

While serialism is an influence on Walker’s music, he works display aspects of neo-classicism in both texture and form.

George Walker’s songs set the texts of a wide variety of American, English, and Scottish poets, including Robert Burns, Lord Byron, Countee Cullen, Emily Dickinson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Donald J. Hayes, and A. E. Housman.

–Christie Finn

Source: Guthrie P. Ramsey Jr.’s article in the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians

Related Information



Works By Chadabe, Eastham, Walker And Wiley

(George Walker)


George Walker: Chamber Music and Songs

(George Walker)


Great American Chamber Music: G. Walker

(George Walker, Emily Dickinson, Paul Laurence Dunbar and William Shakespeare)


George Walker: Composer

(George Walker)


Lilacs: The Music of George Walker

(George Walker)


The Negro Speaks of Rivers

(H. Leslie Adams, Margaret Bonds, Undine Smith Moore, Robert Owens, George Walker, Howard Swanson, Florence Price, Henry Clay Work and Cecil Cohen)


The Music of George Walker

(George Walker)


Walker: Chamber Music

(George Walker, Emily Dickinson, Paul Laurence Dunbar and William Shakespeare)


George Walker: A Portrait

(George Walker)



Sheet Music

Anthology of Art Songs by Black American Composers, Compiled by Willis C. Patterson

Composer(s): H. Leslie Adams, David Baker, Margaret Bonds, Charles Brown, Cecil Cohen, Noel de Costa, Mark Fax, Adolphus C. Hailstork, Eugene Hancock, Thomas Kerr, Jr., Charles Lloyd, Jr., Wendell Logan, Maurice McCall, Dorothy Rudd Moore, Undine Smith Moore, Robert Owens, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, Florence Price, Hale Smith, William Grant Still, Howard Swanson, George Walker, Olly Wilson, John Work, Jr.

Song(s): For You There is No Song (Leslie Adams)
Early in the Mornin' (David Baker)
A Good Assassination Should Be Quiet (David Baker)
Status Symbol (David Baker)
Three Dream Portraits: Minstrel Man; Dream Variations; I, Too (Margaret Bonds)
The Barrier (Charles Brown)
Song Without Words (Charles Brown)
Death of an Old Seaman (Cecil Cohen)
Two Songs for Julie Ju (Noel da Costa)
Cassandra's Lullaby (Mark Fax)
Love (Mark Fax)
A Charm at Parting (Adolphus C. Hailstork)
I Loved You (Adolphus C. Hailstork)
Absalom (Eugene Hancock)
Nunc Dimittis (Eugene Hancock)
Riding to Town (Thomas Kerr, Jr.)
Compensation (Charles Lloyd, Jr.)
If There Be Sorrow (Wendell Logan)
Marrow of My Bone (Wendell Logan)
Chanson Triste (Maurice McCall)
Sweet Sorrow (Maurice McCall)
Weary Blues (Dorothy Rudd Moore)
Love Let the Wind Cry...How I Adore Thee (Undine Moore)
Faithful One (Robert Owens)
Genius Child (Robert Owens)
A Child's Grace (Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson)
Melancholy (Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson)
Night (Florence Price)
Song to the Dark Virgin (Florence Price)
Velvet Shoes (Hale Smith)
Grief (William Grant Still)
A Death Song (Howard Swanson)
I Will Lie Down in Autumn (Howard Swanson)
The Negro Speaks of Rivers (Howard Swanson)
Lament (George Walker)
A Red, Red Rose (George Walker)
Wry Fragments (Olly Wilson)
Dancing in the Sun (John Work, Jr.)
Soliloquy (John Work, Jr.)

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