NPR logo An Aaron Copland Timeline


An Aaron Copland Timeline

The important events in the composer's musical career and personal life.

November 14, 1900: Born, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Early Life: Learned piano from his sister, studied with Leopold Wolfsohn, Victor Wittgenstein, and Clarence Adler; attended New York-area concerts with regular frequency.

1917: Studied harmony, counterpoint, and compositional forms with Karl Goldmark, a well-known composer schooled in the German Romantic tradition.

1918: Graduated from Boy's High School.

1920: Went to Paris to live as an expatriot; studied with Nadia Boulanger through 1924; exposed to French composers (Ravel, Honeger, Roussel, Milhaud) in Paris; summers spent in Germanic regions, exposed to Webern, Bartok, and Hindemith.

1922-25: Wrote first large work, Grohg, a ballet influenced by French textures and Stravinsky.

1924: Organ Symphony written, commisioned by Boulanger for her first tour of America.

1925: Wrote music for the "Theatre" suite, a jazzy, syncopated attempt to create a distinctly 'American' sound.

Other 1920s Events: Studied dramatic literature at the Sorbonne; taught privately; received support from Boston Symphony Conductor Serge Koussevitsky's patron, Alma Morgenthau Wertheim, the MacDowell Colony and the Guggegheim Foundation; joined League of Composers and wrote for its periodical, Modern Music.

1926: Piano Concerto is written

1927-1937: Taught at New School for Social Research. Lectures developed into best-selling books (What to Listen for in Music, Our New Music).

1928: Wrote first significant chamber work, Vitebsk, a piano trio based on Hebraic subject matter.

1928-1931: With composer Roger Sessions, sponsored the Copland-Sessions Concerts, a series of new music performances in New York.

1930: Wrote the acclaimed Dance Symphony and Piano Variations.

1933-1944: Taught at Harvard in composer/theorist Walter Piston's absence.

1934: Wrote the ballet Hear ye! Hear ye!.

1936: An opera for children, The Second Hurricane, and the famed El Salón México are written.

1938: Wrote the ballet Billy the Kid and An Outdoor Overture.

1939: Film Score for Of Mice and Men is written.

1940-1965: First compositional faculty member at Koussevitsky's Berkshire Music Center, later to be called the Tanglewood Music Center; wrote film score to Our Town (1940).

1941: Wrote his Piano Sonata and Quiet City.

1942: Wrote the ballet Rodeo and The Lincoln Portrait.

1943: Fanfare for the Common Man is published for brass and percussion.

1943: Violin Sonata is published.

1944: Wrote Appalachian Spring

1945: Won the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Critic's Circle Award.

1946: The Third Symphony, utilizing the Fanfare for a Common Man, is composed.

1948: Wrote the Clarinet Concerto for virtuoso Benny Goodman, used by Jerome Robbins in the ballet Pied Piper; wrote film score to The Red Pony.

1950: Won an Academy Award; published the Piano Quartet and a song cycle based on the poems of Emily Dickinson.

1951: Became the first composer to be honored with the Norton Professor of Poetics at Harvard; Norton lectures published as Music and Imagination.

1952: Old American Songs are written.

1954: Wrote a large-scale opera, The Tender Land.

1956: Won the Gold Medal of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

1960: Wrote the Nonet for Stings.

1962: Wrote Connontations for the New York Philharmonic's 125th anniversary.

1964: Music for a Great City is finished.

1967: Inscape is written.

1971: Published Duo for Flute and Piano.

1972: Three Latin American Sketches are composed.

1984: First volume of memoirs are written, Copland: 1900 Through 1942, with the help of Vivian Perlis.

1986: Wins the Congressional Medal of Honor and the National Medal of Arts.

1989: Writes second volume of memoirs, Copland: Since 1943, with Vivian Perlis.

1990 : Dies on December 2 in North Tarrytown, N.Y.; his ashes are scattered at Tanglewood.