Thursday, September 26, 2013

September 26 - George Gershwin

Composer and pianist George Gershwin was born Jacob Gershowitz on September 26, 1898, in Brooklyn, NY. At age 11 he began playing a second-hand piano acquired for his older brother, Ira, with whom he would many write hit songs. He dropped out of school at age 15, played piano in New York nightclubs, and worked as a “song-plugger” (promoter) in Tin Pan Alley (at $15 a week) and a rehearsal pianist for Broadway performers. He sold his first song for $5 in 1916 at age 17. He was commissioned by bandleader Paul Whiteman to compose his first classical work, “Rhapsody in Blue” (1924), for orchestra and piano. In 1928 he asked French composer Maurice Ravel to be his teacher, but Ravel told him he would be better as a first-rate Gershwin than a second-rate Ravel, instead recommending he study in Paris with renowned teacher, Nadia Boulanger. She, in turn, promptly refused to compromise his jazz-influenced style through the study of classical music. As a result, Gershwin wrote the innovative symphonic tone poem, “An American in Paris.”

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