Anniston's music man
Jul 27, 2008 | 3835 views |  0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
William Levi Dawson and the Tuskegee Institute Chapel Choir. Photo: Public Library of Anniston and Calhoun County
William Levi Dawson and the Tuskegee Institute Chapel Choir. Photo: Public Library of Anniston and Calhoun County
William Levi Dawson began composing his life's symphony in the Model City. Each accomplishment a note in the melody, Dawson would become an authority in his field — performing for U.S. presidents and earning a spot in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

An authority on the religious folk music of black Americans and a member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame was born in Anniston at the turn of the 20th century.

William Levi Dawson, born in 1899 in Anniston, is best known for his compositions, which include the Negro Folk Symphony. That symphony was premiered in 1934 by the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Leopold Stokowski, according to the Music Hall of Fame.

Dawson ran away from home in Anniston at 13 to enter what was then called Tuskegee Institute, according to Tuskegee University.

Supporting himself by manual labor, Dawson lived in Tuskegee and played in the Institute's band and orchestra until he graduated in 1921.

After graduation, according to Tuskegee's information, Dawson studied composition and orchestration at Washburn College in Kansas. In 1925, he received a bachelor of music degree in theory at the Horner Institute of Fine Arts in Kansas City, Mo.

Dawson earned a master's degree in composition in 1927 from the American Conservatory of Music.

After completing his education, Dawson was first trombonist with the Chicago Civic Orchestra from 1926 to 1930.

In 1931, Dawson moved back to Alabama where he organized the School of Music at Tuskegee. He conducted the school's Tuskegee Choir for 25 years.

According to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, this choir was one of the main attractions when the Radio City Music Hall in New York City opened in 1932.

Under the direction of Dawson, the choir also performed for presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Dawson was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1989. He died in 1990.
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