William Dawson

Perfect for High School & University Performances

Exceptional Worship Concerts

"William Dawson brought the music of the African-American experience into the concert halls of the world, earning him a place of honor on the Mount Rushmore of our genre. His influence in the choral sphere stretches back nearly a century and is still relevant today."

Bradley Ellingboe, Senior Editor, National Music Publishing

Social Justice

Music is honest and true. Songs of perseverance are the cornerstone of our society. A willing heart and a truthful chorus can change the world.

Spirituals in Worship

Singing spirituals allows us to see the devotion that the arranger has to God.

Spirituals in Education

Dissecting spirituals allows students to see the coded messages that were passed on from slave to slave.

About the William Dawson Collection

William Dawson

African American composer, performer and music educator William Levi Dawson used the rich vitality of his musical heritage as a basis for all types of music, including arrangements of folk songs and original compositions. At the age of thirteen, the Anniston native entered Tuskegee Institute, graduating with highest honors in 1921. Four years later, Dawson earned a bachelor of music degree from Horner Institute of Fine Arts in Kansas City, Missouri. He studied composition under Felix Borowski at the Chicago Musical College. He also studied under Adolph Weidig at the American Conservatory of Music, where he received a master of music degree in 1927.

Dawson’s musical apprenticeship in the band and orchestra at Tuskegee provided excellent professional preparation for his role as first trombonist with the Chicago Civic Orchestra from 1926 to 1930. Dawson became director of the School of Music at Tuskegee in 1931. He conducted the institute’s 100-voice a cappella choir during a month’s engagement at the opening of the International Music Hall of Radio City, and in concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York City, the White House and Constitution Hall, both in Washington, D.C., and in a series of national and international radio broadcasts. In 1934, under the sponsorship of the President of the United States and the State Department, the Tuskegee Choir made a concert tour of international and interracial good will to the British Isles, Europe and the Soviet Union. In 1956, Tuskegee Institute awarded him the honorary degree of Doctor of Music.

Although Dawson was well known for his popular choral arrangements, he achieved perhaps his greatest renown as a composer for Negro Folk Symphony, which was presented in its 1934 world premiere by the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Leopold Stokowski. Dawson was guest conductor with the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra in 1966, the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, Michigan’s Wayne State University Glee Club, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. he He was inducted into the Alabama Arts Hall of Fame in 1975. Dawson received the Alumni Merit Award from Tuskegee Institute in 1983, seven years before his death in Montgomery at the age of 90.