Articles

Celebrating Our History: William G. Still X Todd Duncan X Arthur Mitchell

In Uncategorized on March 1, 2011 by highendblog

With today marking the end of Black History Month, I wanted to focus on the arts of orchestra, opera, and ballet.  These individuals: William G Still, Todd Duncan, and Arthur Mitchell are consider the firsts Blacks to perform from their particular achievements.

The original source for the music of the was American composer William Grant Still. He was a classical composer who wrote more than 150 compositions. Still conducted a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have a symphony of his own (his first symphony) performed by a leading orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company, and the first to have an opera performed on national TV.

Kentucky-born baritone Todd Duncan became the first Black to join The New York City Opera in 1945. Before that, he had been singing with a number of black operatic companies. His big break came when composer George Gershwin cast him in the role of Porgy in his opera Porgy and Bess in 1935. This gave a huge boost to his career and many doors of opportunity opened up for him on the concert stage. He went on later to teach at the Curtis Institute, one of the most prestigious music schools in the United States.

 

Arthur Mitchell was the first African-American male to join a major ballet company when he became a part of The New York City Ballet, later becoming its first African-American male principal dancer. This was a brave step for both Mitchell and the ballet company to take, since this was done during time of tremendous prejudice, and having a male person of color dancing alongside white females was a pretty bold statement for that era. Mitchell stayed with The New York City Ballet until 1969, when he went on to help found the first African-American ballet company The Harlem Dance Theater.


Blacks have had a large part in making valuable contributions to the areas of fine arts and entertainment in our country. Some of the best writers, musicians, actors and performers emerged from their culture to express themselves in a world that has sometimes ignored, belittled or discriminated against them.

I’ve enjoyed doing these “Celebrating Our History,” entries, and hope to do some for many years to come.

JW

 

 

 

 

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