Composer Aaron Copland — LGBT History Month Day 9


Today’s LGBT History Month icon is world-renowned composer Aaron Copland.

Copland, who in his lifetime was also a teacher, writer and acclaimed conductor, is credited as a key figure in the formation of early 20th century American music and composition.

Biography via Equality Forum:

The youngest of five children, Copland was born in Brooklyn in November 14, 1900, to Eastern European Jewish immigrants. Encouraged by his mother, he became interested in music. His older sister taught him to play the piano. At 16, Copland began lessons with composer Rubin Goldmark, who introduced him to the American style of music.

After graduating high school, Copland played and composed works for dance bands. Inspired by modern European music, he moved to France and attended the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau. There he studied under Nadia Boulanger, who was his muse throughout his time in France.

Copland’s compositions are famous for rejection of the neo-Romantic form and his creation of a unique American style. He composed a wide variety of music, including piano and orchestral arrangements, ballets, and Hollywood film scores. His compositions for film include “Of Mice and Men” (1939), “Our Town” (1940) and “The Heiress” (1949), which won him an Academy Award for best score. His score for Martha Graham’s ballet “Appalachian Spring” (1944) earned him a Pulitzer Prize.

During the communist witch hunts of the 1950′s, Copland was brought before Congress and questioned about whether he was affiliated with the Communist party. Although he was cleared of charges, Hollywood blacklisted him. His composition “A Lincoln Portrait” was withdrawn as part of the inaugural concert for President Eisenhower.

Copland dedicated the remainder of his life to composing, conducting and teaching. He had a major influence on the style of the next generation of American composers. His protégé, Leonard Bernstein, is considered the best conductor of Copland’s work.

Copland died in Sleepy Hollow, New York on December 2, 1990. His estate established the Aaron Copland Fund for Composers, which annually bestows over $500,000 in grants.


  • “American Masters.” PBS. 13 June 2011.
  • Boriskin, Michael. “Timeline of a Musical Life.” Copland House. 13 June 2011.
  • “Copland, Aaron.” glbtq. 13 June 2011.
  • Raskin, David. “David Raksin Remembers His Colleagues – Aaron Copland.” American Composers Orchestra. 13 June 2011.
  • Varnell, Paul.”Aaron Copland at 100.” IGF Culture Watch. 13 June 2011.


Image taken from LGBT History Month video, no infringement intended.


Annmari Lundin
Annmari L6 years ago

Christopher C.: You definately got that guy pegged!

Jane H.
Jane H6 years ago

Gay people have contributed a whole lot to our culture and society.......there are so many famous gay people in all walks of life.

Chris M.
Chris M6 years ago

Thanks for this article. I am enjoying these...

Lika S.
Lika P6 years ago

Thanks, I never knew. I've always liked Copland's works, and enjoyed performing many of his compositions. It's fun to learn these facts.

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Portland Neola
P. L. Neola6 years ago

Thank you for the article.

I possess some of his works, and they are excellent!

But, I did not know his biography. I did not even realize he was of Jewish descent. It seems like a cruel injustice to blacklist a Jewish man for false accusations of being affiliated with a communist party or a communist sympathizer. It was between 1936 and 1938 that Hitler started occupying Eastern Europe. By 1939, Hitler occupied Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and maybe a few more countries such as Yugoslavia, Romania, and Hungary.

He still had aunts, uncles, and cousins back in the Old Country. His parents probably felt powerless and fretted over the demise of their siblings. I am sure he lost a percentage of family through concentration camps! God, what were we, America, thinking?

Melissa D.
Melissa Dittmer6 years ago

What a fabulous example of a life well lived, though only because of perseverance. And Dawid: your name calling says more about you that those at whom your comments are directed.

Beth M.
Beth M6 years ago

Who doesn't love Hoedown from Rodeo?

Anne Brabson
Anne B6 years ago

Copland's music is inspiring! Three cheers for recognizing his contributions during LGTB History Month!

Angela R.
Angela R6 years ago

His Appalachian Spring is one of my favorite peices of music!