When William Grant Still mounted the podium and began conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1936,  it marked the first time that an African American had led a major symphonic orchestra.

Raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, Still began studying medicine, but gave it up to pursue his first love - a career in music. It was a career which saw him not only conducting, but composing as well. His symphonies, operas and ballets have been performed in many parts of the world. His most popular work is the ballet Lenox Avenue, depicting life in Harlem.

In the U.S. today, there are 180-thousand musicians and composers - 15 percent of them African American.

This profile is adapted from Profile America, a radio series produced by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2004.