Arts Advocate in Amherst, MA



Music Educator in Amherst, MA

For artists and performers who don't know me, please allow me to pass along some more details about Frederick Tillis. I was born in Galveston, TX, on January 5, 1930. I'm a graduate of Wiley College and received my M.A. and Ph.D. in Music Composition from the University of Iowa.

An Educator

I am a music educator in Amherst, MA, Professor Emeritus, in the Department of Music and Dance at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where I also serve as Director Emeritus of the University Fine Arts Center and Director of the Jazz in July Workshops in Improvisation. I was a prominent professor and formerly served on many music association boards of directors and with the International Association for Jazz Education.

I founded the jazz study program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1970 and co-founded the Jazz in July improvisational studies program at the University of Massachusetts. I am also now a director at Meredith College, Fine Arts Center.

I recently visited the University of Fort Hare in South Africa, where I established a jazz study program and have served as a Master Artist in Residence at the Akiyoshidai International Art Village in Yamaguchi, Japan. I also 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.

Composer & Poet Frederick Tillis

My catalog includes more than 125 compositions and commissions, spanning both jazz and classical European traditions in orchestral, jazz, instrumental, choral, chamber music, and vocal works. Melodic and harmonic textures reflect elements of various music of the world, including Asian and Western cultures, and my ethnic and cultural background.

My music is performed nationally and abroad. Among my commissioned compositions is, "A Symphony of Songs," a choral and orchestral work based on poems by Wallace Stevens and commissioned by the Hartford Chorale, Inc. in 1999.

I did "A Festival Journey," in 1992 and, "Ring Shout Concerto," in 1974 for percussion, written for Max Roach and premiered by Max Roach and a symphony orchestra. I also penned a "Concerto for Piano," for jazz trio and symphony orchestra in 1983, written for Billy Taylor and performed with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.

Classical Composer in Amherst, MA

Honors & Awards

I am 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 a professor of music at the University of Massachusetts, I taught music composition and a survey course on the history of Afro-American Music and Musicians.


I've also toured the world over. I traveled with the Tillis-Holmes Jazz Duo as a jazz saxophonist and with the Tradewinds Jazz Ensemble to:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • China
  • England
  • Fiji
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Luxembourg
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Poland
  • Soviet Union
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey


Poetry speaks to the masses and appeals to young and old. I have published many books of poetry including:

  • "In the Spirit and the Flesh"
  • "Images of Mind and Heart"
  • "In Celebration"
  • "Of Moons, Moods, Myths, and the Muse"
  • "Harlem Echoes"
  • "Children's Corner: From A to Z"
  • "Seasons, Symbols, and Stones"
  • "Akiyoshidai Diary"
  • "Scattered Ghosts & Southern Winds"
  • "Bittersweet Harvests"
  • "Breaking Dawn & Healing"
  • "The Nature of Things: Human and Otherwise"
  • "Beginning Again"

OrDer Form