George Gershwin was one of the most prolific American composers of the 20th century. He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1898 to Ukrainian immigrants, Morris and Rosa Gershowitz. He began to study piano at a young age and was instructed by noted piano teacher Charles Hambitzer. After dropping out of high school at the young age of 15, he began his career as a song-plugger. A song-plugger was somebody who demonstrated new sheet music to be sold in a music store. He did this for three years and by that time had turned into a highly skilled pianist. In 1916 he composed his first published song entitled “When You Want ’Em You Can’t Get ’Em”. From 1920 to 1924, he composed for an annual production put on by George White. Legend has it that he actually composed what most say is his greatest work, Rhapsody in Blue, in a rush because he had forgotten about the performance. About ten years later, he wrote one of the most famous American operas called Porgy and Bess. Many people say it is “considered to not only be Gershwin’s most complex and best-known works, but also among the most important American musical compositions of the 20th century.” (Gershwin, 2013). After the success of his compositions, he moved to Hollywood and was asked to compose music for a film entitled Shall We Dance? On July 7, 1937, George Gershwin passed away immediately following a surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor. He was only 38 years old and even in his short life was remembered as one of the great American composers.
When George Gershwin composed “Rhapsody in Blue” in 1924, there was still a sense of classical style in most performances. This particular piece really announced the beginning of a serious influence of American Jazz into performances. This had been done before, but Gershwin’s piece “seized the attention of the musical world and provided the irresistible stimulus for others to go and do likewise.” (Neimoyer, 2011). This composition paved the way for...
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