WILLIAM LEVI DAWSON Biography - Theater, Opera and Movie personalities


Biography » theater opera and movie personalities » william levi dawson


Name: William Levi Dawson                                                             
Born: 26 September 1899                                                               
Died: 2 May 1990                                                                     
William Levi Dawson (September 26, 1899, Anniston, Alabama – May 2 , 1990,         
Montgomery, Alabama) was an African-American composer, choir director and             
A graduate of the Horner Institute of Fine Arts with a Bachelor of Music,             
William Dawson later studied at the Chicago Musical College with professor Felix     
Borowski, and then at the American Conservatory of Music where he received his       
masters degree. Early in his career he served as a trombonist both with the           
Redpath Chautauqua and the Chicago Civic Symphony Orchestra. His teaching career     
began in the Kansas City public school system, which was later followed by a         
tenure with the Tuskegee Institute from 1931–1956. During this period, it was he   
who appointed a large number of faculty members that later became well known for     
their work in the field. Additionally, Dawson also developed the Tuskegee             
Institute Choir into an internationally renowned ensemble; they were invited to       
sing at New York City's Radio City Music Hall in 1932 for a week of six daily         
As a composer, Dawson began at a young age, and it was early on in his               
compositional career that his Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano was performed by       
the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra. Besides chamber music, he is also known for       
his contributions to both orchestral and choral literature. His best known works     
are arrangements and variations on spirituals; his Negro Folk Symphony of 1934       
garnered a great deal of attention at its world premier, under the direction of       
Leopold Stokowski with the Philadelphia Orchestra. The symphony was later             
revised in 1952 with greater African rhythms inspired by the composers trip to       
West Africa. The composition was — the composer conveyed — an attempt to convey   
the missing elements that were lost when Africans came into bondage outside           
their homeland. In creating this work, Dawson was influenced by the                   
nationalistic views of Dvořák. Widely performed, his most popular spirituals       
include "Ezekiel Saw the Wheel", "Jesus Walked the Lonesome Valley", "Talk about     
a Child That Do Love Jesus" and "King Jesus Is a-Listening". Dawson was elected       
to and initiated into the national honorary Alpha Alpha Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha       
Sinfonia music fraternity in 1977.                                                   
In honor of Dawson's impact on male choral music, on February 25, 1968 he was         
awarded the prestigious University of Pennsylvania Glee Club Award of Merit.         
Beginning in 1964, this award "Established to bring a declaration of                 
appreciation to an individual each year that has made a significant contribution     
to the world of music and helped to create a climate in which our talents may         
find valid expression."                                                               
Dawson's arrangements of traditional African-American spirituals are widely           
published in the United States and are regularly performed by school, college         
and community choral ensembles.