Composer William AR May brings perspective to his music


After a teacher called his work “comic book music”, William AR May was ready to quit composing. But within a year he found himself participating in the Brevard Music Festival, “and that was without having had much formal education or training in composition at that time. The following year , I won second place in the national competition, you know, with one of the very first pieces of music I wrote when I was in college,” he says. concert of the C4 Clarinet Quartet on May 26.

Born in 1988 into a family of musicians, May began studying music before she was 10 years old. But discouragement was never far away. In eighth grade, during a discussion in a state history class, he recounts that a teacher “told me, taken aback, that a black man could not hope for a career in music, or the arts, professionally,” he says. . He continued despite taking what she said to heart.

“I have to mention that there was no prospect among black communities for professional African-American classical music composers, there was just none of that at the time,” he adds. .

May earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Columbus State University and later a master’s degree in composition from Georgia State University, but he decided to take a teaching job.

“Every year that I worked in education or worked with young people, it was great; I came to love and appreciate it,” he says. “[But] the reason I got into this wasn’t from a place of trust, but really more of a place of fear: ‘Can I really make it as a songwriter?'” The support, says- he, was missing.He continued to compose music when possible and is now a full-time composer.

“…It means a lot to me that you’re in an environment where you’re not necessarily surrounded by people who do the things you do, who are passionate about the things you’re passionate about,” he explains. “I could go to a music festival and be surrounded by people there, and that would be in an environment that supports the arts and supports songwriting from that perspective, but I’m the only African American in that situation. So it’s almost the kind of thing where no matter where I go, or what I try to do, I don’t really fit in.

“I was sharing with someone last night, another young guy looking to get into the music business, high school graduate, looking to take on the world, and he’s black,” May said. “I told him, ‘Take everything you hear with a grain of salt, and don’t get discouraged. Don’t be distracted or discouraged by anything you hear, whether it’s too positive or too negative, because you need a realistic perspective, but at the same time, trust yourself, trust your instincts, trust what you’re doing, and know that there are people out there supporting you.

Learn more about May at

-Monica Hooper

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