William Arms Fisher (April 27, 1861 - December 18, 1948) was an American composer, music historian and writer.
Fisher was born in San Francisco, California on April 27, 1861. He studied under Antonín Dvořák and Horatio Parker at the National Conservatory of Music of America in New York City.
He was president of both the Music Teachers National Association and the Music Publishers' National Association. He also worked for the music publisher Oliver Ditson Company which was later taken over by the Theodore Presser Company. He died in Brookline, Massachusetts on December 18, 1948.
In an 1893 interview, Antonín Dvořák challenged American composers to make better use of the "negro melodies of America", feeling that they were needed as the basis for "any serious and original school of composition" in America.
Antonín Dvořák's New World Symphony was played at Carnegie Hall on December 16, 1893. Later William Arms Fisher wrote a text to the cor anglais tune in the second movement, entitled "Goin' Home", which has been mistaken for a Negro spiritual.
In response to the challenge and the symphony, William Arms Fisher published an arrangement of Seventy Negro Spirituals in 1926.
William Arms Fisher wrote an article for Music Educators' Journal in 1933 titled "Music in a Changing World." Patrick Freer of Music Educators' Journal said that "Fisher's article was one of the first to interrogate the role of popular music within music education". In his article, Fisher said that music is important in every community. A quote from his article is "Blessed are the music-makers, for they shall uplift and unite the Earth." which was mentioned by the MENC: The National Association for Music Education.
An article in The Crisis published in February 1927 called William Arms Fisher "a worthy pupil and disciple of Dvořák" and asked if he "would waste his time over futile music". The article quoted an anonymous reviewer saying, "If we must have Negro spirituals, by all means let us have Fisher to arrange them."
Fisher's compositions have been featured in several albums.
One of his compositions appeared in the 1947 film Buck Privates Come Home.
Sixty Irish Songs - (1915),
Notes on Music in Old Boston - (1918),
Goin' Home (sheet music, 1922),
One Hundred and Fifty Years of Music Publishing in the United States - (1934),
Ye Olde New-England Psalm-tunes 1620-1820 - (1930),
The Music that Washington Knew - (1931)
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license