George Gershwin

American Composer and Pianist

George Gershwin

George Gershwin was born Jacob Gershowitz on September 26, 1898 in Brooklyn, NY. At the age of 15, George Gershwin dropped out of school and began to play the piano. Within a few years, Gershwin was one of the most sought after musicians in America. He was a composer of jazz, opera and popular songs. Gershwin died at the age of 38, immediately after brain surgery on July, 11, 1937.

Early Career

George Gershwin started off by playing in several night clubs in New York. After three years of playing the piano for demanding customers, he had transformed into a highly talented composer. To earn extra money, he he worked as a rehearsal pianist for Broadway singers. In 1916, he composed his first published song, "When You Want 'Em You Can't Get 'Em."

The Gershwin Family

George and Ira Gershwin

George's older brother Ira Gershwin(born Israel Gershowitz) was a lyricist. The brothers worked together to compose music. Their famous pieces include "I Got Rhythm", "Rhapsody in Blue", "The Man I Love", "Fascinating Rhythm", and "They Can't Take That Away From Me." In 1931, the brothers worked together on the score for the Broadway show, "Of Thee I Sing." It became the first ever musical to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.


From 1920 to 1924, Gershwin composed for an annual production put on by George White. After a show titled “Blue Monday,” the bandleader , Paul Whiteman, requested that Gershwin create a jazz number that would strengthen the appreciation for the genre of music. Writing as fast as possible in order to meet the deadline, Gershwin composed his best-known work, “Rhapsody in Blue.”
George Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue

George Gershwin and Thomas Adès

Both George Gershwin (1898-1937) and Thomas Adès(1971-) were/are skilled pianists. Adès' musical experience began a little later than Gershwin's. Adès started studying piano and composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and read music at King’s College, Cambridge. Gershwin received piano lessons at the age of 11.Adès and Gershwin are/were both very talented musicians. Gershwin adds his own style to music. Gershwin mixed classical music with jazz due to the "Jazz Age". However, Adès writes his music in ways that sound familiar in parts but are completely different. The way he plays the piano is beyond compare. It sounds like multiple instruments at once but there is only one. Both have appeared with orchestras. In addition to playing, Gershwin has composed many pieces for orchestras, while Adès has conducted orchestras, including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Both composers inspire people to play what they enjoy playing and to be original and to not blend in with the crowd.

Darknesse Visible by Thomas Adès

The Jorvik Ensemble - Darknesse Visible

Gershwin's Significance and Impact on America

Gershwin did not try to fit in with the type of music popular to the time period. He wanted to be different and do what he liked. He was a classical composer that incorporated jazz into his music. Gershwin's musical style inspired many composers who felt restricted by modernism to. Even in the 21st century, Gershwin continues to inspire people. Gershwin's music is still played at events. The impact Gershwin had on America will not be forgotten. The Warner Brothers created Rhapsody in Blue in 1945. Rhapsody in Blue was a film showing Gershwin as an American composer that made a difference all over the world.