During a trip by william Grant Still to Los Angeles in 1930 to revive a friendship with the Composer Harold Bruce Forsythe, Arvey met the young Composer. Forsythe likely asked her to read some of his piano music. Still tried twice to get her to perform his pieces, first Africa, then Four Negro Dances. The two became more acquainted, but as Forsythe and Arvey had been friends for many years (since they had both gone to Manual Arts High School), some jealousy ensued.
Arvey’s first collaboration with Still came in 1939 when Langston Hughes, the original librettist for his opera Troubled Island, left the country before the project was completed. Arvey wrote the lyrics for three arias. She became the librettist for his subsequent operatic work, most notably A Bayou Legend, A Southern Interlude, Costaso and Mota.