Frederick C. Tillis

Composer-performer-educator- and poet, Frederick Tillis was born in Galveston, Texas on January 5, 1930. He is a graduate of Wiley College, receiving his B.A. at the age of 19, then received his M.A. and Ph.D. in Music Composition from the University of Iowa. His catalog includes more than 125 compositions and commissions, spanning both jazz and classical European traditions in various media - orchestral, jazz, instrumental, choral, chamber music, and vocal works. Melodic and harmonic textures reflect elements of various musics of the world, including Asian and Western cultures, as well as natural outgrowths of his ethnic and cultural background.
Tillis' music is performed nationally and abroad. Among his commissioned compositions are "A Symphony of Songs," a choral/orchestral work based on poems by Wallace Stevens and commissioned by The Hartford Chorale, Inc. (1999); "A Festival Journey," (1992) and "Ring Shout Concerto," (1974) for percussion, written for Max Roach and premiered by Max Roach and symphony orchestra; and "Concerto for Piano" (Jazz Trio) and symphony orchestra (1983) written for Billy Taylor and performed with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.
Dr. Tillis has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the 1997 Commonwealth Award from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and an award for outstanding service from the International Association of Jazz Educators. As Professor of Music at the University of Massachusetts, he taught music composition and a survey course in the history of Afro-American Music & Musicians. Beginning his professional performing career at the age of 12, as a jazz saxophonist, he traveled with the Tillis-Holmes Jazz Duo and the Tradewinds Jazz Ensemble to Australia, Austria, Belgium, China, England, Fiji, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, the former Soviet Union, Switzerland, and Turkey.
As an educator and cultural ambassador, Tillis visited the University of Fort Hare in South Africa to advise in the establishment of their jazz studies program, served as a Master Artist in residence at the Akiyoshidai International Art Village in Yamaguchi, Japan and conducted a three-week residency on behalf of the United States Information Agency at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand in 1991 to help the school establish a major in jazz.
Dr. Tillis has published a text book entitled Jazz Theory and Improvisation and fifteen books of poetry: In the Spirit and the Flesh; Images of Mind and HeartIn Celebration; Of Moons, Moods, Myths, and the Muse; Harlem Echoes; Children's Corner: From A to ZSeasons, Symbols, and Stones; Akiyoshidai Diary; Scattered Ghosts & Southern Winds; Bittersweet Harvest; Breaking Dawn & HealingThe Nature of Things: Human and OtherwiseBeginning Again; China-Shades, Shadows, and Scenes; and Ghosts and Winds in Eqypt's Lands.
Dr. Tillis was Professor Emeritus in the Department of Music and Dance and serves as Director Emeritus of the University Fine Arts Center and Director Emeritus of the Jazz in July Workshops in Improvisation at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He passed away May 3, 2020 in Amherst, MA.


List of recordings available:

ACA Festival 2004
Spiritual Fantasy No. 23

Festival Journey Concerto -
Spiritual Fantasy No. 9 -
Freedom (In Memory of Dr. Martin Luther King)

A Latin American Suite
University of Massachusetts Orchestra    
Four Corners of the World

Motherless Child - Spiritual Fantasy No. 12 - Spiritual Fantasy No. 9 - Freedom - Beyond Shades of Doubt - The Rain Forest - Singing for the Sake fo My Soul - The Best Times

Music for Peace and Goodwill    
Four Corners of The World - In the Spirit and the Flesh - Spiritual Fantasy #1 - For The Victims and Survivors of September, 11

American Trumpet Concertos    Spiritual Fantasy No. 6

ACA Festival 2006   Spiritual Fantasy Suite

ACA Festival 2009 Song for Sister Hokkaido

Jazz- American Classical Music    
Autumn Concerto for Trumpet - Images of the Blue Earth - Duet For Soprano Saxophone and Piano - The Time Has Come - Blue Differentia - Spanish and Indian Drone - Oil in My Vessel - Image of Blue Earth

Celebration (Grand March)    

Frederick Tillis as a performer: Music of WC Handy, Charlie Parker, Billy Taylor and many others. Among Friends: The Billy Taylor Trio and Fred Tillis    Harlem Blues    Billy Taylor, piano; Victor Gaskin, bass; Bob Thomas, drums; Fred Tillis, tenor & soprano saxophone Includes The Holidays by Fred Tillis

Paintings in Sound for Solo Saxophone, Frederick Tillis    Motherless Child (Trad./Tillis) - One for Ray - Sombrero Dance - Rhymes and Rhythms - Sophisticated Lady (Ellington/Tillis) - A Different Drumming I - Besame Mucho (Velazquez/Tillis) - Ride the Wind - Toh Ryan Se (Trad. Japanese/Tillis) - A Different Drumming II - The Time Has Come - Golden Earrings

It's About Time    Spiritual Fantasy No. 5    Laura Klock: Horn, Nadine Shank: Piano Label: Albany

Yael Manor/Elixir Music for solo piano    Spiritual Fantasy No. 4

Festival Journey Concerto    Max Roach, trap drums (soloist); The New Orchestra of Boston - David Epstein, conductor

Spiritual Fantasy No. 9    Paulina Stark, soprano (soloist); University of Massachusetts Chorale - Richard du Bois, conductor

Freedom (In Memory of Dr. Martin Luther King)    University of Massachusetts Chorale - Richard du Bois, conductor

ACE Publications

111 title(s)
Frederick C. Tillis FOUR CORNERS OF THE WORLD Narr, orch: pic-2-2-2-1; 4-3-3-1; timp, perc; str
Frederick C. Tillis FREEDOM SATB Chorus
Frederick C. Tillis HALLELUYAH TTBB Chorus
Frederick C. Tillis IMAGES OF THE BLUE EARTH String Quartet With Soprano sSaxophone
Frederick C. Tillis IN THE SPIRIT AND THE FLESH Mixed Chorus, Jazz Trio, and Orchestra
2222 - 4331 - timp, perc - jazz trio - SATB - strings
Frederick C. Tillis INAUGURAL OVERTURE Brass Quintet and Timpani
Frederick C. Tillis JOY OF SINGING: 12 SONGS FOR VOICE AND PIANO Voice and Piano
Frederick C. Tillis LATIN AMERICAN SUITE for String Quartet String Quartet
Frederick C. Tillis Latin Fringe SATB Chorus
Frederick C. Tillis Let Us Break Bread Together SATB Chorus
Frederick C. Tillis Little David Soprano and Piano
Frederick C. Tillis Metamorphosis on a Scheme by J.S. Bach Big Band
5 sax, 4 tpt, hn, 4 tbn, gt, pno, bass, perc
Frederick C. Tillis MILITANT MOOD for brass sextet 2 Trumpets, Horn, Trombone, Euphonium, and Tuba
Frederick C. Tillis MOTIONS Trombone and Piano
Frederick C. Tillis MUSIC FOR AN EXPERIMENTAL LAB ENSEMBLE Nos. 1 and 2 No.1: altsax, tensax, hn, tba, pf, vln - No.2: fl, 2tpt, pf, med voice
Frederick C. Tillis Music for Violin, Cello, and Piano Piano Trio
Violin, Cello, and Piano
Frederick C. Tillis NIGER SYMPHONY Chamber Orchestra
1110 - 2111 - perc - strings
Frederick C. Tillis Nobody Knows Trumpet, Tenor Saxophone, 2 Violins, Viola, Cello, and Double Bass
Frederick C. Tillis One for Ray
SATB Chorus, Piano, Double Bass, and Drum Set
Frederick C. Tillis OVERTURE TO A DANCE Wind Ensemble
pic-2-2-5(Ebcl-2-lalcl-bcl)- 4sax(aatb)-1,4-3-euph-3-1,timp,perc,cb
Frederick C. Tillis PASSACAGLIA for Brass Quintet Brass Quintet
2 Trumpets, Horn, Trombone, Tuba
Frederick C. Tillis PASSACAGLIA for organ Organ
Frederick C. Tillis PASTORALE Wind Ensemble
pic-2-15-4sax(aatb)-1, 2-3-bar. hn-3-1, 7 perc
Frederick C. Tillis PHANTASY Viola and Piano

Additional Works