The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1904 as a highly selective group of 50 members within a larger organization called the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Over the years the two groups functioned separately with different memberships, budgets, and boards of directors. In 1993 the two groups finally agreed to form a single group of 250 members under the name of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Members are chosen from the fields of literature, music, and the fine arts. Members must be native or naturalized citizens of the United States. They are elected for life and pay no dues. New members are elected only upon the death of other members. Some of the current Black members of the academy are Kwame Anthony Appiah, Rita Dove, Ernest J. Gaines, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Jamaica Kincaid, Yusef Komunyakaa, Toni Morrison, Martin Puryear, and Kara Walker.
This year nine new members were elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Only one of the new members is an African American.
Alvin Singleton is a Brooklyn-born composer who has written music for theatre, orchestra, solo instruments, and a variety of chamber ensembles. He has served as composer-in-residence at Spelman College in Atlanta and as visiting professor of composition at the Yale University School of Music.
Singleton is a graduate of New York University and holds a master’s degree in music from Yale University.