Eastman School of Music, of the University of Rochester has opened a new Center of Equity and Inclusion dedicated to the late composer George T. Walker, who graduated from the conservatory in 1956 (DMA).

The George Walker Center for Equity and Inclusion in Music opened on April 16 at the Eastman School of music campus at the University of Rochester. The dedication included remarks by University of Rochester President Sarah Mangelsdorf; Jamal J. Rossi, Joan and Martin Messinger Dean at Eastman; Ian and Gregory Walker, sons of George Walker, and others, as well as performances of Walker’s chamber music works.

A new Associate Dean of Equity and Inclusion will head the center, which is designed to be a space for Eastman students and community to gather for events and activity that promotes student equity and inclusion.

Walker’s sons (the playwright Ian Walker and violinist/composer Gregory Walker) say the Eastman School of Music played a major role in their father’s artistic development:

“From the lasting support he received from [composer] Howard Hanson to the deep friendships he formed over the years with faculty. We hope that the George Walker Center for Equity and Inclusion in Music will serve as a resource for the artistic development and empowerment of other promising artists, as modeled by our father’s commitment to excellence and freedom of expression.”

Jamal J. Rossi, Joan and Martin Messing Dean at the Eastman School of Music, said Walker was one of Eastman’s most distinguished alumni “both because of the quality and integrity of his music, but also as a pioneer and role model through his perseverance and achievements.”

“We are grateful to the Walker Family for allowing us to recognize Dr. Walker by naming our new Center for Equity and Inclusion in his honor. Like music itself, this new center will serve as a vehicle to bring our community together and to lift up our spirits.”

George T. Walker was one of the most prolific and accomplished American composers of the last century and the first African American to graduate with a Doctorate from Eastman in 1956. Among the many awards he received during his lifetime, Walker was the first African American composer to win a Pulitzer Prize for his work Lilacs in 1996, which was later premiered by the Boston Symphony, conducted by Seiji Ozawa.