George Gershwin

An American Composer and Pianist

Early Life

George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn, New York on September 26, 1898 to Rosa Gershwin and Morris Gershwin, both Russian immigrants. He became excited about music at the age of eleven when his parents bought his older brother, Ira, a secondhand piano. George eventually looked for lessons from a teacher and began studying with a teacher named Charles Hambitzer. Later in life he studied under many other teachers including Henry Cowell, Wallingford Riegger, Edward Kilenyi and Joseph Schillinger.

Early Career

George Gershwin had become more and more interested in music and eventually dropped out of school at the age of fifteen to become a professional musician. He started off playing in New York night clubs and became a "song-plugger" at New York's Tin Pan Alley. He grew in popularity and earned a little extra cash as a rehearsal pianist for Broadway singers. And finally, in 1916, he composed his first published song, “When You Want ’Em You Can’t Get ’Em.”


From 1920 to 1924 George Gershwin played for annual production for George White. After a show titled “Blue Monday,” the bandleader in the pit, Paul Whiteman, asked George Gershwin to create a jazz number for him that would make jazz more appreciable. Some people say that George had forgotten the request until he read a newspaper article that said that Whiteman's latest concert would feature George's piece. Writing at a frantic pace, George tried to meet the deadline and wrote his most famous song, Rhapsody in Blue.

Rhapsody in Blue

George Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue


"… true music… must repeat the thought and aspirations of the people and the time. My people are Americans. My time is today… " -George Gershwin 1925

"From Gershwin emanated a new American music not written with the ruthlessness of one who strives to demolish established rules but based on a new native gusto and wit and awareness. His was a modernity that reflected the civilization we live in as excitingly as the headline in today's newspaper." -Ira Gershwin 1938

Later Life

In the beginning of 1937, Gershwin began to have symptoms such as severe headaches and noticing strange smells. Doctors eventually discovered that he had developed a malignant brain tumor. On July 11, 1937, Gershwin died during surgery to remove the tumor. He was only 38.

Similar Present Day Composer

John Williams is a lot like George Gershwin because he composed music for many different movies just like George Gershwin composed a lot of songs for stage and screen. John Williams has composed the theme song for Star Wars, the Olympic Fanfare and Theme, E.T.: The Flying Theme, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, War Horse, Lincoln, The Book Thief, The Adventures of Tintin, and much, much more.

Works Cited

"George Gershwin Biography." A&E Networks Television, 2014. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.

Rowley, Eric. "Classical Net - Gershwin - The Early Years." Classical Net - Gershwin - The Early Years. N.p., 1997. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.

"List of Compositions by John Williams." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 03 Nov. 2014. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.

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