Today’s date in 1931 marks the birthday of the first notable Native American composer of concert music. His name was Louis Ballard, and he was born in Devil's Promenade in Oklahoma. His father was Cherokee, and his mother Quapaw.
As a young boy Ballard attended – but managed not to be irreparably damaged by – one of those notorious boarding schools where Native American students were taught to forget everything about their own language and culture. Ballard somehow remained rooted in Quapaw language and traditions at the same time his interest in European classical music developed, and in 1962 became first American Indian to receive a graduate degree in music composition.
Inspired by the example of Bela Bartok, who incorporated the folk music of Eastern Europe in his works, Ballard attempted to do the same with Native American source material in concert works both large and small. He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1971 and in 1974 his orchestral piece Incident at Wounded Knee was performed at Carnegie Hall and taken on an Eastern European tour by Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, who had commissioned the work.
This Louis Ballard chamber piece for two winds and piano is entitled “Mid-Winter Fires.”
Music Played in Today's Program
Louis Ballard (1931-2007): Mid-Winter Fires (Amy Morris, f; Mark Serrup, ob; Mary Goetz, p.) Indande Records 52352
On This Day
1882 - Australian-born American composer and pianist Percy Aldrich Grainger, in Melbourne; He became a USA citizen in 1919
1900 - American composer George Antheil, in Trenton, N.J.
1839 - Spanish composer Fernando Sor, age 61, in Paris
1940 - Randall Thompson: "Allelujah" at the opening of the Berkshire Music Center in Lenox, Mass.
1942 - Sir Lenox Berkeley: Symphony No. 1 in London, conducted by the composer
1987 - Judith Weir: opera "A Night at the Chinese Opera" in Cheltenham, England
1988 - Philip Glass: opera "The Making of the Representative for Planet 8" (after a sci-fi novel by Doris Lessing), by Houston Grand Opera
2000 - John Williams: "TreeSong" for Violin and Orchestra, at Tanglewood with Gil Shaham and the Boston Symphony, composer conducting
1588 - English composer and lutenist John Dowland receives B. Mus. Degree from Christ Church, Oxford
Love the music?
Show your support by making a gift to YourClassical.
Each day, we’re here for you with thoughtful streams that set the tone for your day – not to mention the stories and programs that inspire you to new discovery and help you explore the music you love.
YourClassical is available for free, because we are listener-supported public media. Take a moment to make your gift today.
About Composers Datebook®
Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.
He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.