George GershwinComposer | 2006
George Gershwin was born Jacob Gershvin in 1898 in Brooklyn. The Gershwin family purchased a piano in 1910, intended for George’s brother, Ira, but George quickly claimed it as his own. He progressed rapidly in music lessons and was accepted in 1912 as a pupil of Charles Hambitzer, who recognized his innate talent, and introduced him to piano works by Debussey, Chopin, Bach, and Liszt. At fifteen, he took a job at a music publisher demonstrating new songs in the salesroom. Three years later, he began to compose, and in 1919 he wrote La, La, Lucille, his first complete Broadway musical. His song “Swanee”—written in 1920—became his first hit. During the 1920s and 1930s, Gershwin delivered one brilliant musical after another, including Lady, Be Good (1924), Funny Face (1927) and Of Thee I Sing (1931). (Brother Ira provided the lyrics to his brother’s melodies.) While Gershwin was establishing himself as one of the founding fathers of American musical theater, he was also composing brilliant works for the concert hall, beginning with “Rhapsody in Blue” in 1924. His “Concerto in F” followed in 1925, and a 1928 trip to Europe to meet with other great composers of the era inspired the symphonic poem “An American in Paris.” His 1935 opera Porgy and Bess is still performed all over the world. Gershwin died at age 38 of a brain tumor. Although his career lasted less than 20 years, his work will go on to inspire generations of music lovers.