In life’s coda, master composer George Walker has a symphony in mind
Photographer Frank Schramm had just moved to Montclair, N.J., when he heard one of Walker’s pieces playing on the local public radio station. He sent Walker an e-mail, not having any idea where he lived. Turns out, they were in the same town. Walker dropped Schramm a tape. The photographer began taking pictures. That was 2004. Schramm, who has continued photographing the composer, provided the Washington Post with these images.
First piano lesson: 1927
First recital, Town Hall, New York City: 1945
First black tenured faculty member, Smith College: 1961
First Pulitzer Prize for African-American in composition: 1996.
There are no deadlines. There is nothing to prove. George Walker, 93, writes music because he wants to. “I don’t know what relaxation is,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer admits. Walker also talks about his many chores as he sits in his living room in Montclair. Two high-end (Polymer) floor speakers stand a few feet away. The Steinway is in the next room. So are the sheets of music he’s working on and a stack of CDs. “I do everything. I do my own cooking. I do my laundry. I do my cleaning.” Oh, and that symphony. Walker has been working on it for four months. The D.C. native – he grew up in the northwest section of the city - isn’t sure who will perform it. First, Walker has to finish it. Why keep working? “I want more people to hear my work,” he says. “I want people to get acquainted with my music.”
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