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 Three Spiritual Fantasies for Organ Nos 20 -21 - 22 Organ
Frederick C. Tillis THREE SYMPHONIC SPIRITUALS Orchestra
2222 - 2221 - timp, perc, cel - strings
Frederick C. Tillis TIME HAS COME, THE SATB Chorus, Piano, Double Bass, and Drum set
Frederick C. Tillis TRIO FOR STRINGS 1961 Violin, Viola, and Cello
Frederick C. Tillis TWO MOODS FOR VIOLIN DUET Two Violins
Frederick C. Tillis TWO PIECES FOR ORCHESTRA (A Spiritual and Blues Fantasy) Chamber Orchestra With Mixed Chorus
1(+picc)111 - 2211 - 2 perc - SATB - strings
Frederick C. Tillis Two Songs (Enogod; Me) Soprano and Piano
Frederick C. Tillis TWO SONGS (The End of All Flesh, and A Prayer in Faith) Baritone and Piano
Frederick C. Tillis VERZIERUNGEN (GRACE NOTES) solo cl, 5 sx, 4 tpt, hn, 3 tbn, tb, vib, vc, gtr, pf, db, dms
Frederick C. Tillis WADE IN THE WATER String Quartet

Additional Works