You won’t find Americans on a list of great Baroque composers due to the simple fact that the United States wasn’t quite a country yet during the Baroque Era. The young nation isn’t terribly well known for its Classical or even Romantic Era composers, either. But when the Modern Era dawned, it was time for Americans to shine.
Several revolutionary American composers helped define the Modern Era and are considered among its greatest talents. Get to know these American musical legends with free printable composer biographies, intermediate and easy piano sheet music, and worksheets. Two will be featured in this post, and additional composers will be showcased in an upcoming post.
Famous Composer Biographies
Leonard Bernstein was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1918. His father, Sam Bernstein, did not support young Leonard’s interest in music at first. Despite this, his father took him to many orchestra concerts. At one of these concerts he heard a piano performance that captivated him. It was then that he began to learn to play the piano. Get the complete free biography. Then, review the biography with Leonard Bernstein Word Search and Meet the Composer Job Application Worksheet.
Bernstein stood out as a performer, conductor, and composer, but may be most readily recognized as the man behind West Side Story’s memorable musical score. Intermediate piano students can try their hand at “Somewhere” from West Side Story.
Aaron Copland was born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 14, 1900 to Jewish parents who immigrated from Russia. His first experience with music came from his older sister who taught him how to play the piano.
By age 17, Aaron decided that he wanted to be a composer, so he began taking composition lessons from a respected private music instructor in Manhattan. During this time, Aaron attended many music performances at the New York Symphony and Brooklyn Academy of Music where he listened to the music of contemporary and classical composers. Following his passion for European music, Aaron left New York for Paris. Get the complete free biography. Review information from the biography using Aaron Copland Word Search or Meet the Composer Job Application Worksheet.
Copland was a truly American composer, incorporating jazz influences and folk songs in his works for orchestra, film score, and ballet. One of his most well-known works was his ballet score Appalachian Spring. The Shaker song “Simple Gifts” is featured prominently in this piece, and although Copland himself did not write it, he ensured that it would be performed and recognized for years to come. Here’s an arrangement of “Simple Gifts” for level 3 piano solo. The lyrics to the original song are available on this page as well.
Bernstein and Copland aren’t the only great American composers. Watch for another post featuring more outstanding American composers’ stories and works.
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