Volumes have been rightfully devoted to these two giants of music. Since both of these composers have a connection to the music in Celebrating Americans, specifically Whipple’s arrangement, (Not So) Simple Gifts, it is important to mention them here.

Aaron Copland


Born: Brooklyn, New York,

November 14, 1900


Died: North Tarrytown, New York,

December 2, 1990

Aaron Copland is recognized as one of the preeminent American composers. He played a major role in American music for almost seventy years as composer, conductor, teacher, writer and lecturer, and was a founder of the American Composers Alliance and the Tanglewood Festival. Copland is probably best known for his concert and ballet works. He began his teaching career as a lecturer at New York's School for Social Research in 1927. In 1938 his book, What to Listen for in Music, was published, drawing material from these lectures.

In 1928, with fellow composer Roger Sessions, he launched an influential concert series that presented experimental contemporary composers including Marc Blitzstein, Paul Bowles, Theodore Chanler, Carlos Chávez, Roy Harris, Darius Milhaud, Walter Piston, Virgil Thomson, as well as his and Sessions’ original works.

Copland’s association with the Berkshire Music Center and the Tanglewood Music Festival in Massachusetts became world renowned. He worked and taught there for several decades. Copland’s important works include Appalachian Spring, Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Concerto for Clarinet and Strings, Fanfare for the Common Man, ballets Billy the Kid and Rodeo.

Sergei Prokofiev


Born: Ekaterinoslav, Ukraine,

April 23, 1891


Died: Moscow, Russia,

March 4, 1953


Sergei Prokofiev studied with Rimsky-Korsakov at the St. Petersburg Conservatory.

His early works were shocking to audiences but, as his compositional skills refined and matured, Prokofiev’s music was warmly embraced by the Russian public and critics alike. Prokofiev left Russia to tour America and France in 1918 during a time when the Bolsheviks began to interfere with his work as a composer. His fame as a concert pianist grew. Of his decision to return to Stalin's Russia in 1936 Prokofiev said, "In Europe, we all have to fish for performances, cajole conductors and theatre directors. In Russia they come to me - I can hardly keep up with the demand."

Prokofiev wrote eight film scores and, during his final visit to America in 1938, studied film scoring techniques in Hollywood. His most prominent filmscore was for Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky. His best known compositions include Peter and the Wolf, the ballet Romeo and Juliet and his Concerto #3 for Piano & Orchestra. Prokofiev was once again persecuted by the Soviet authorities in 1948. Due to his "anti-democratic tendencies," and "artistic formalism" Prokofiev’s creative freedom was censored until the end of his life. Ironically, Prokofiev and Stalin - one of the greatest composers and one of the most terrible tyrants in Russian history - died on the same day.