Adolphus C. Hailstork III
Albany High School Class of 1959
Composer, music professor
A state aptitude test Adolphus Hailstork took as a kid indicated that he’d
be good in music.
The test was right. Hailstork started on the violin in fourth grade, then
switched to piano, organ and choir. At Albany High School he conducted a
boys’ choral group and started composing.
Then-orchestra teacher Gertrude Howarth told him the orchestra
would play whatever he wrote. And 53 years later, he’s still composing.
Hailstork went to Howard University after high school, where he studied
with Mark Fax. Later, he completed studies at the Manhattan School of
Music under Vittorio Giannini and David Diamond and the American
Institute at Fontainebleau with Nadia Boulanger. He received his
doctorate in composition from Michigan State University, where he was a
student of H. Owen Reed.
Hailstork has written in a variety of genres, producing works for
chorus, solo voice, piano, organ, various chamber ensembles, band, and
orchestra. His early compositions include Celebration, recorded by the
Detroit Symphony in 1976; and two works for band (Out of the Depths,
1977, and American Guernica, 1983), both of which won national
competitions. Consort Piece (1995), commissioned by the Norfolk Chamber
Ensemble, was awarded first prize by the University of Delaware’s
Festival of Contemporary Music.
Hailstork’s works have been performed by such prestigious ensembles as
the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, and the New York
Philharmonic, under the batons of leading conductors such as James
DePreist, Daniel Barenboim, Kurt Masur, and Lorin Maazel.
His recent commissions include Earthrise, a large-scale choral work
premiered by James Conlon and the 2006 Cincinnati May Festival; Three
Studies on Chant Melodies for the American Guild of Organists; 2006
National Convention; and Whitman’s Journey, a cantata for chorus and
orchestra, premiered by the Master Chorale of Washington, D.C. (under
Donald McCullough) at the Kennedy Center in April 2006.
Other premieres included Rise for Freedom, an opera about the
Underground Railroad by the Cincinnati Opera Company in fall 2007;
Serenade for chorus and orchestra, commissioned by Michigan State
University in spring 2008;
and Set Me on a Rock, also for chorus and orchestra, commissioned by the
Houston Choral Society.
Hailstork, who has received honorary doctorates
from Michigan State University and the College of William and Mary,
resides in Virginia Beach, Va. He serves as professor of music and
eminent scholar at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.