LA Opera receives $60,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support new production of Highway 1, USA

(Los Angeles) January 25, 2024 — LA Opera is pleased to announce it has been approved by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for a Grants for Arts Projects award of $60,000. This grant will support the company's upcoming new production of Highway 1, USA, a long neglected opera by pioneering Black composer William Grant Still that will run from February 24 through March 17.

The NEA will award 958 Grants for Arts Projects awards totaling more than $27.1 million that were announced as part of its first round of fiscal year 2024 grants.

“The NEA is delighted to announce this grant to LA Opera, which is helping contribute to the strength and well-being of the arts sector and local community,” said National Endowment for the Arts Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD. “We are pleased to be able to support this community and help create an environment where all people have the opportunity to live artful lives.”

Hailed as "the dean of African-American composers," William Grant Still (1895-1978) was the first Black composer to have a symphony performed by a major American symphony orchestra (Symphony No. 1, "Afro-American," at the Rochester Philharmonic in 1931) and the first to have an opera produced by a major American opera company (Troubled Island at New York City Opera in 1949). He also became the first Black conductor to conduct a major American symphony orchestra when he led the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a 1936 concert of his own compositions at the Hollywood Bowl. Despite the quality of his work, his compositions, especially his operas, became less frequently performed over time. Composed in the 1940s, Highway 1, USA wasn't performed until 1963 and received its professional premiere only in 1972. The opera didn't have a major professional production until it was presented by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in 2021.

"We are grateful to the NEA for their generous and visonary support for this important project," said Christopher Koelsch, LA Opera's president and CEO. "Thanks to them, this milestone production will help us lead the efforts to return William Grant Still's long overlooked operas to their rightful place in the repertory."

For more information on other projects included in the NEA’s grant announcement, visit

To learn more about Highway 1, USA, visit

Production made possible by generous support from
Gregory Annenberg Weingarten, GRoW @ Annenberg

Founding and ongoing leadership support
for the Recovered Voices project provided by
Marilyn Ziering and the Ziering Family Foundation

Principal underwriting support provided
by a generous anonymous gift

Special additional support from
Thurmond Smithgall and The Lanie & Ethel Foundation

With special appreciation to
Régina and Gregory Annenberg Weingarten

Special additional support for Highway 1, USA
from National Endowment for the Arts

Kaneza Schaal’s direction of Highway 1, USA
generously underwritten by a gift from
The Piera Barbaglia Shaheen Next Generation Artist Award

LA Opera Orchestra generously underwritten by Terri and Jerry Kohl

LA Opera is a nonprofit organization dedicated
to serving the greater Los Angeles community.