Born September 26, 1898 in Brooklyn, New York
Died July 11, 1937 in Hollywood, California
Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris, Porgy and Bess, and Piano Concerto in F
George Gershwin first discovered music when he was 10 years old and heard a friend’s violin recital in a school auditorium in lower East Side Manhattan. He began taking piano lessons and after several poor teachers, he finally began taking lessons from Charles Hambitzer.
When he was 16, he began working for a publishing house of Remick in New York, playing the piano in order to boost sales. From there he moved to the Harms publishing house at thirty-five dollars a week writing songs. It was while he was working at Harms that he began receiving commissions to write songs. In 1924, he teamed up with his brother Ira. As a collaborative team of composer/lyricist, George and Ira wrote the music form many Broadway hits including Lady Be Good, Tip-Toes, Oh, Kay!, Strike Up the Band, Funny Face, Girl Crazy, and Of Thee I Sing.
George was interested in both “serious” and popular music, and he composed in both styles. He was one of the first composers to incorporate the characteristics of jazz into classical music. He tried to present jazz as respectable and a valuable art form. It was through his efforts that jazz achieved a high status as a vital and important American style. George Gershwin died of a brain tumor at 38 years of age despite doctor’s efforts to save him.
Gershwin’s music is still heard in concert halls all over the world. His music has been featured in modern movies such as When Harry Met Sally and Mr. Holland’s Opus. Both his popular music and his more serious compositions have become standard and continue to grace us with their beauty and artistry.