Despite the very obvious creative talent and ability of many gifted black musicians and composers, racial prejudice and discrimination often hampered their careers.


Here are five African-American that paved the way for others to follow

5 African-American classical music pioneers

Maurice Arnold Strothotte


The Missouri-born composer studied with Dvořák in New York, and his American Plantation Dances were performed alongside Dvořák’s arrangements in an 1894 concert. He wrote a symphony, two comic operas, a ballet and vocal works, melding Romanticism with African-American folk music.

Robert Nathaniel Dett


Dett championed African-American folk music and spirituals as a wonderful store of melodies for composers to use. His 1937 oratorio The Ordering of Moses was broadcast live on NBC but this was cut short, reportedly after listeners complained about music by an African American being on air.

Florence B Price


When the Chicago Symphony Orchestra premiered her Dvořák-inspired Symphony in E minor in 1933, Florence Price became the first African-American woman to have an orchestral work performed by a major US orchestra. Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price were just two singers who championed her songs and arrangements.

We named Price one of the best female composers of all time

William Grant Still


Conductor, composer and arranger, Still made his mark in many fields. A student of Varèse, he was the first African American to have a symphony played by one of the big US orchestras, to conduct a major orchestra and to have an opera premiered by a major company. He wrote eight operas but is best known for his 1931 Afro-American Symphony.

Margaret Allison Bonds



A pianist and composer, Bonds played Price’s Piano Concerto with the Women’s Symphony Orchestra of Chicago at the World Fair and became the first African American to appear as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Her song Sea Ghost won the Wanamaker Award, and she was known for her settings of poems by Langston Hughes.