George Gershwin Essay

907 words - 4 pages

George Gershwin is one of the greatest influences to American music in the 20th century. His compositions can be found throughout the entertainment world, ranging from Broadway to motion pictures. Though he had a short career, George Gershwin's music continues to bring inspiration and delight almost sixty years later.
On September 26, 1898 George Gershwin was born to the Gershowitz family as Jacob Gershowitz. The Gershowitzs' were an immigrant family that lived in Brooklyn, NY at the time. His parents, Morris and Rose, were Russian immigrants that owned a restaurant. George was the second of four children with older brother Ira, younger sister Francis, and younger brother Arthur. Over time, George accepted being called Gershwin instead of Gershowitz and eventually changed his name to it.
As a young boy, Gershwin learned all of his early music education from friend Maxie Rosenzweig. When Gershwin was twelve years old, his parents purchased a piano for his brother Ira, but, soon enough, Gershwin became the primary user of the family piano. After learning basic piano from a local instructor, Gershwin began lessons with Charles Hambitzer for regular piano and Edward Kilenyi for music theory. All of his teachers noticed his uncanny ability to play piano with amazing skill as well as sight reading with apparent ease.
Three years later, Gershwin decided that he wished to be a musician and dropped out of high school, contrary to his mother's opinion of what was best for him. His first job was in Tin Pan Alley, a somewhat market of musicians selling their work in New York City. Earning fifteen dollars an hour, George was a music plugger, someone who tried to sell sheet music by playing it, for the Jerome Remick Company. Gershwin soon disliked "plugging" music and decided to play difficult classical pieces instead. This decision led him to compose his own music. He composed many original pieces that he kept in a notebook with him, and his first published piece, "When You Want ‘Em You Can't Get ‘Em, When You've Got ‘Em You Don't Want ‘Em," appeared after almost three years at Remick. Although it was barely in the entertainment world, this piece was very important for Gershwin because it showed him that his work could be published and sold. It led him to create his first success, "Swanee," that was used in the Broadway play Sinbad. This success caused him to write his first full length Broadway score for the production La, La Lucille that same year.
At this time, Gershwin's career skyrocketed. He was hired by George White to compose for the Scandals series. He continued doing this for four years. During this time, Gershwin composed his first operetta, Blue Monday. It impressed Paul Whiteman, a famous bandleader, so much that he asked Gershwin to compose a symphonic jazz piece. At this...

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