William Levi Dawson (1899-1990), director of the Tuskegee Institute Choir from 1931 to 1956, was one of the most important arrangers of Negro spirituals in the twentieth century. He is also remembered as an outstanding composer, conductor, speaker, and leader of festival choruses. His arrangements are still sung by choirs all over the world. Save a small number of dissertations and various articles, however, very little has been written about him. In fact, almost no significant writing has been undertaken utilizing the Dawson papers held at the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Books Library at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. This study utilizes that collection in examining four areas of Dawson's life: his work as a composer, his work as an arranger of Negro spirituals, his work as a choral conductor and music pedagogue, and his life as an African American man living in segregated times. Dawson is shown as a thoughtful, deliberate practitioner of his art who built his career with intention, and who, through his various activities, sought both to affirm the traditional music of his people and to transcend his era's problems with the definitions, associations, and prejudices attached to the term "race." Using a diverse selection of letters, notes, and speeches held in the archive, it is possible to develop a fuller, more nuanced portrait of Dawson. Through a thorough examination of a select few of these documents, his growth can be traced from a young composer living in Chicago, to a college choral director dealing with the realities of racial inequality in the mid-twentieth century, to a seasoned, respected elder in his field, endeavoring to pass on to others knowledge of the music he spent his life arranging and teaching.
- William Levi Dawson: an examination of selected letters, speeches, and writings
The date the item was original created (prior to any relationship with the ASU Digital Repositories.)
- African American composers--Biography.
- African American composers
- African American conductors (Music)--Biography.
- African American conductors (Music)
- African American music teachers--Biography.
- African American music teachers
- Spirituals (Songs)--History and criticism.
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by Vernon Edward Huff