Adolphus Hailstork received his doctorate in composition from Michigan State University, where he was a student of H. Owen Reed. He completed earlier studies at the Manhattan School of Music under Vittorio Giannini and David Diamond, the American Institute at Fontainebleau with Nadia Boulanger, and Howard University with Mark Fax.
Dr. Hailstork has written across a variety of genres, producing works for chorus, solo voice, solo piano, organ, various chamber ensembles, band, and orchestra. His works have been performed by prestigious ensembles such as the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic, under the batons of leading conductors such as James DePreist, Daniel Barenboim, Kurt Masur, and Lorin Maazel. The composer’s music has been recorded by a variety of ensembles for the Naxos and Albany Records labels.
The composer’s early compositions include Celebration!, recorded by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 1976, and two works for band, Out of the Depths and American Guernica, published in 1977 and 1983, both of which won national competitions. Consort Piece for Mixed Septet, commissioned by the Norfolk Chamber Ensemble and published in 1995, was awarded First Prize by the University of Delaware Festival of Contemporary Music. 1999 saw the premieres of Dr. Hailstork's Symphony No. 2, commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, as well as his second opera,Joshua's Boots, commissioned by the Opera Theatre of St. Louis and the Kansas City Lyric Opera.
Commissions from the early 2000s include Earthrise, a large-scale choral work premiered by James Conlon and the 2006 Cincinnati May Festival Chorus, Two Studies on Chant Melodies for the American Guild of Organists 2006 National Convention, and Whitman's Journey, a cantata for Chorus and Orchestra debuted by the Master Chorale of Washington, D.C at the Kennedy Center in 2006 under the direction of Donald McCullough. Rise for Freedom, an opera about the Underground Railroad, was first performed in 2007 by the Cincinnati Opera Company. Hailstork’s Serenade for Chorus and Orchestra, commissioned by Michigan State University, and Set Me on a Rock, also for chorus and orchestra as commissioned by the Houston Choral Society, both premiered in 2008. The Gift of the Magi, commissioned by the Virginia Children’s Chorus for Treble Choir and Orchestra, debuted in 2009.
The Orlando Philharmonic premiered Zora, We’re Calling You, with a libretto by Elizabeth Van Dyke featuring text by Zora Neale Hurston, in 2011. In 2013, I Speak of Peace, commissioned by The Bismarck-Mandan Symphony in honor of President John F. Kennedy, was performed by the ensemble under the baton of Beverly Everett.
Some of Hailstork’s newest works include The World Called, based on Rita Dove’s poem Testimonial, for Soprano, Chorus and Orchestra, commissioned by The Oratorio Society of Virginia and premiered in 2018, and Still Holding On, an orchestral work commissioned by The Los Angeles Philharmonic and premiered in February of the following year. Commissioned by the Harlem Chamber Players in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Hailstork’s Tulsa 1921 for Mezzo-Soprano, Harp, Percussion and Strings premiered on June 19th, 2021 in New York City. His Symphony No. 4 was premiered by the Louisville Orchestra in February 2022, and his highly anticipated requiem cantata in memory of George Floyd, A Knee on a Neck, with text by Herbert Martin, was first performed by The National Philharmonic in March 2022. Dr. Hailstork's Symphony No. 5 was premiered by the National Philharmonic in June 2023. Another large-scale work, JFK: The Last Speech, a co-commission by the Colorado Music Festival, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, and Amherst College, received its premiere at the Colorado Music Festival in July 2023.
Dr. Hailstork has received honorary doctorates from the Manhattan School of Music, Michigan State University, and the College of William and Mary. He resides in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he is professor emeritus at Old Dominion University.