A Jazzified Genius
Boyhood and Early Career
When Gershwin dropped out of school at 15 years of age, he made money by making piano rolls for player pianos (pianos that can be played without assistance from a human using a rotating roll with a sort of "code" for music). He also played the piano in nightclubs in New York and landed a job as a "song-plugger" (someone who plays songs for publishers) on Tin Pan Alley in New York.
While still a teenager, he played as an accompanist for singers and a rehearsal accompanist for Broadway shows.
Gershwin continued to write Broadway songs, and also wrote songs for a yearly television show, Scandals. Here, he was asked by the conductor of the orchestra pit to compose a piece for a concert. According to legend, Gershwin had forgotten about this until a newspaper article that stated he would be writing a piece reminded him! He had about one three weeks to compose the work, and ended up with "Rhapsody in Blue." This piece is one of his most famous works.
After this, George wrote multiple classic Broadway tunes with his brother, Ira, who wrote the lyrics. These songs include "I Got Rhythm," "'S Wonderful," and "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off."
Gershwin's Significance to America
George Gershwin's more classical pieces, like "Rhapsody in Blue," are a great example of crossings between classical and jazz music. These pieces that are recognized by so many people demonstrated the classical music that has been a part of America since our founding, and the "modern," exciting jazz music that was starting to become very famous in the 1920s.
At the time, Gershwin was very well known and loved by many. He was the composer of many famous pieces. Gershwin became wealthy practically overnight from his hit "Swanee." His music defined their culture of the era.
Today, Gershwin is still remembered and respected by many, especially musicians. His genius pieces that he began publishing as a teenager are still remembered and played constantly. One musical, Nice Work if You Can Get It, premiered on Broadway in 2012 and is still playing today. This musical showcases many of his amazing pieces. If a musical could come out so recently honoring his songs, he must have been very important to America's culture.
George Gershwin Vs Steven Schwartz
Schwartz and Gershwin do not have major similarities in terms of musicality in their compositions. However, there are simple nuances that one may be able to pick up on in both of their works. In many pieces, such as Schwartz's "Magic To Do" and Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," the song starts out slow, and progresses to a steady upbeat tempo. In both composer's pieces one can also find serious repetition. For instance, in Schwartz's "No One Mourns the Wicked," one can find a series of constantly repeated phrases underneath the melody. In Gershwin's "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," one can find the same phrases repeated again and again with little variances. Listen to the pieces below to try to pick up on the similarities.