George Gershwin came from a non musically-inclined Jewish-Russian family being the younger of two sons. Gershwin’s parents had bought a secondhand piano for his older brother, Ira, to begin taking lessons. Of the two, George displayed more interest in the instrument, as he effortlessly played a song he had learned from following along with the keys of the neighbor’s player piano, a piano which works similar to a music box; pressing down the keys that are cued by a scrolling paper inside the piano.Gershwin’s parents decided to enroll George in lessons with instructor Charles Hambitzer, who was so amazed by the boy’s talent that he refused any form of payment, deeming his student a genius that would surely make a mark on the world. Gershwin went on to study with notable composers to become well-versed in music history and theory, and by the age of 15, Gershwin’s primary source of income was creating the scrolls that would be used by player pianos, and by playing in New York nightclubs.
I didn’t even start playing the piano until I was about 13 or 14. I guess I must have had a little talent or whatever-you-call-it, but I practiced regularly, and that’s what counts.
Writing music is not so much inspiration as hard work.
All too often do we see unhappy children in music lessons with teachers strict on the mechanics of playing, and this isn’t necessarily a negative trait, but should a child have a teacher with a level of passion that matches the child’s level of interest in all things new, we are given the formula for success in the endeavor.
George Gershwin was never forced to sit at the piano and study, rather, he first displayed a curiosity in music and his parents gave him the tools needed to allow him to grow in it. Once a child begins to show interest in a craft, music or not, the best that you can give them is the maintaining of a positive and encouraging attitude towards it, and simply showing your full support in their growth.
All great composers of the past spent most of their time studying. Feeling alone won’t do the job. A man also needs technique.
A comprehensive biography of George Gershwin (1898-1937) His Life and Work Hardcover by Howard Pollack unravels the myths surrounding one of America’s most celebrated composers and establishes the enduring value of his music.
Photography via music.umich.edu and mtv.com