Gordon Parks’ began his artistic career as a musician, starting out as a brothel pianist and traveling with a jazz band. He had been playing piano by ear since his childhood and, although he could not read or write music, he started composing his own piano pieces. While Parks would soon take up the camera more seriously and begin his accomplished career as a photographer, he continued to compose music. In 1956, a Vienna orchestra performed his piano concerto.  He also scored some of the films he directed, including the first major Hollywood film by a black American director, The Learning Tree (1969). In 1990, he composed the music and liberetto for Martin, a ballet honoring the life of Martin Luther King Jr. 

Selected Orchestral Works

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, 1953

The Tree Symphony, 1967. Composed with themes by Parks; basis for music used in film The Learning Tree

Martin, ballet released on film, 1990

A Star for Noon Suite, 2000. Companion to book A Star for Noon

Five piano sonatas

For Cello and Orchestra

Moments Without Proper Names

Run, Sister, Run

Shaft’s Big Score

Symphonic  Set for Piano and Orchestra

The Learning Tree

The Odyssey of Solomon Northup

Work for Piano and Woodwinds

Film Scores

The Learning Tree, 1969

Shaft’s Big Score, 1972

Solomon Northup’s Odyssey, 1984

Moments Without Proper Names, 1987

Run Sister Run, 1987