I truly hope folks read the article in Sunday’s Washington Post Magazine about composer George Walker. If not, Parlor piano inspired career is available online and you can catch up on your reading. I’m highlighting this not only because I find Walker’s life and accomplishments inspirational, but because he grew up in our community.
His childhood home is located at 3222 Sherman Avenue, NW. Walker was born in 1922 and according to the Post article, considered this his home until his farther died in 1954.
His father emigrated to the United States, where he became a physician after graduating from Temple University Medical School in Philadelphia. George Walker’s mother, Rosa King, supervised her son’s first piano lessons that began when he was five years of age. His first teacher was Miss Mary L. Henry. Mrs. Lillian Mitchell Allen, who had earned a doctorate in music education, became his second piano teacher. There is a good overview of his career here.
In 1997, mayor Marion Barry proclaimed June 14 George Walker Day in the District of Columbia. The citation that accompanied that proclamation summed up Walker’s accomplishments as follows:
“A native Washingtonian and a product of D.C. public schools, . . . he was the first black graduate of the Curtis Institute, the first black to earn a doctorate degree from the Eastman School of Music, the first black pianist to play with the Philadelphia Orchestra and to obtain major management under the aegis of National Concert Artists and Columbia Artists Management; and in 1996, was the first black recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in Music.”
Walker is certainly someone all Washingtonians should be familiar with and proud of.