William Levi Dawson


Born: September 23, 1899; Anniston, AL   Died: May 2, 1990; Tuskegee, AL  
Despite his varied musical pursuits, African-American composer and conductor William Levi Dawson will be forever linked to the Tuskegee Institute and its world-famous choir. An imaginative composer and arranger, Dawson brought African-American spirituals and folk songs out of the fields and chapels and into the mainstream of twentieth-century choral music.

Dawson entered the Tuskegee Institute as a student at the age of fifteen; after
Read more graduating in 1921, he studied at the Eastman School of Music, eventually earning degrees from the Horner Institute of Fine Arts in Kansas City and the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. An accomplished trombonist, he played with the Chicago Civic Orchestra before devoting his energies to teaching and composing.

In 1931, Dawson returned to the Tuskegee Institute to assume the directorship of the School of Music. Under his tutelage, the Tuskegee Choir rose to worldwide prominence, making a number of successful tours throughout Europe and North America. Dawson's own compositions, written in a neo-Romantic style, often make use of African-American folk song themes. His best-known concert work, the Negro Folk Symphony (1934), was premiered and subsequently recorded by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Dawson's arrangements of African-American spirituals, characterized by rhythmic intensity and an adventuresome harmonic language, are today regarded as classics of the twentieth-century choral repertoire. After his retirement from the Tuskegee Institute in 1955, Dawson traveled to Spain as a musical ambassador and conductor under the auspices of the State Department. Dawson remained active as a lecturer and composer until his death in 1990. Read less
Browse 1-3 of 3 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    Sing Freedom! African-American Spirituals / Johnson, Conspirare
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 807525 Release Date: 09/13/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Craig Hella Johnson,  Leonard De Pa,  William Levi Dawson,  Moses Hogan  ... 
    Conductor:  Craig Hella Johnson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Conspirare
    SuperAudio CD: $18.99
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  • 2.
    An American Sampler / Brensinger, Atlanta Singers
    Label: Aca Digital   Catalog: 20046 Release Date: 10/27/1998   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Joseph Brackett,  Traditional,  William Levi Dawson,  Hall Johnson  ... 
    Performer:  David Blalock,  Timothy Gunter,  Frank Timmerman,  Phoebe Snow  ... 
    Conductor:  David Brensinger
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Atlanta Singers
    On sale! $19.98
    CD: $16.99
    In Stock
    On sale!   $19.98   CD:  $16.99 Add CD to Cart

  • 3.
    Still: Symphony No 2;  Dawson, Ellington / Järvi, Detroit So
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 9226 Release Date: 01/04/1994   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Edward "Duke" Ellington,  William Levi Dawson,  William Grant Still
    Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Detroit Symphony Orchestra
    CD: $17.99
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