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George Gershwin

Dropped Out Of School

Gershwin dropped out of school at the age of 15 to work as a songwriter for a music publisher.1)

Learning Music

Gershwin never studied music in a conservatory. He did, however, take individual lessons for five years and studied music theory and piano throughout his life.2)

George And Ira

George and his brother Ira both became accomplished painters.3)

Porgy And Bess

Porgy and Bess, Gershwin's outstanding opera, was a disappointment when it premiered in 1935.4)

Too Busy

Gershwin did not marry. He claimed to be “too busy,” although he enjoyed dating a lot.5)


Gershwin died at the age of 38 from a brain tumor.6)

Rhapsody In Blue

Gershwin apparently learnt from a newspaper story in January 1924 that he was supposed to write a “jazz concerto” for a program of new American music to be delivered a month later by popular dance band leader Paul Whiteman. Gershwin composed a two-piano version at breakneck speed, which was subsequently arranged by Whiteman's arranger. Rhapsody in Blue, with Gershwin as soloist, was a triumph, and it is now regarded as a watershed moment in American music.7)

Piano Concerto In F

Gershwin's piano concerto, written one year after Rhapsody in Blue, took his revolutionary jazz-influenced classical style even farther. The composer premiered it with the New York Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Walter Damrosch. The conductor referred to Gershwin as “the Prince who has grabbed Cinderella [jazz] by the hand and openly declared her a princess to the astounded world, no likely to the rage of her envious sisters.”8)

American In Paris

In the mid-1920s, Gershwin visited Paris for a short time and applied to study composition with the renowned Nadia Boulanger - pictured - who, along with numerous other prospective professors, including Maurice Ravel, turned him down. She was concerned that his jazz-influenced style would be ruined by rigorous classical education. Gershwin penned An American in Paris while in the French capital.9)


Berg, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Milhaud, and Schoenberg's modernist compositions piqued Gershwin's interest. He requested composing instruction from Schoenberg, whom he also painted. Schoenberg reportedly declined, saying, 'I would just make you a lousy Schoenberg, and you're already such a brilliant Gershwin.'10)


Berg was Gershwin's favorite of the modern European masters. On a train from Vienna to Paris, he examined the score of Berg's Lyric Suite and had it performed at various elegant parties. Gershwin even had an autographed photo of Berg hanging in his flat, along with a picture of boxer Jack Dempsey and a punch bag.11)


Once a week, Gershwin and Schoenberg would play tennis. Gershwin's playing has been described as “nervous” and “nonchalant,” “relentless” and “chivalrous,” whereas Schoenberg's has been regarded as “overly enthusiastic” and “choppy.” 12)


Despite George's success with concert pieces, the Gershwins continued to create brilliant musicals, including Oh, Kay! (1926), Funny Face (1927), Strike Up the Band (1927 and 1930), Show Girl (1929), and Girl Crazy (1930). Of Thee I Sing (1931) is known for winning the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama.13)

Shall We Dance

Following the underwhelming response to Porgy and Bess, Gershwin relocated to Hollywood and worked on numerous film scores. His music for the film Shall We Dance, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, fused ballet and jazz in a novel way, lasting more than an hour. Gershwin spent months writing and orchestrating it.14)

Lasting Legacy

Gershwin's music has been a part of our world for nearly a century, from the opening clarinet glissando of Rhapsody in Blue to standards like 'Embraceable You' and 'Someone to Watch Over Me.' It harkens back to a time of glitz and sophistication, and it gave the United States its first true voice in the performance hall. 'The Gershwin legacy is unique because George Gershwin died in 1937, yet his music is as fresh and relevant now as when he originally produced it,' says American vocalist Michael Feinstein.15)

george_gershwin.txt · Last modified: 2022/02/10 01:45 by eziothekilla34