Aaron Copland was born on 14 November 1900, in Brooklyn, New York. He was the youngest of five children born into a Conservative Jewish family of Lithuanian extraction. Copland's father, Harris Morris Copland, had anglicized his surname from Kaplan to Copland, possibly while working in Scotland to raise money to bring his family to America. Copland's parents owned a small shop on Washington Avenue and all the children assisted in the store. Copland's father was not musical but his mother sang and played the piano and arranged music lessons for Aaron and his siblings, who all played musical instruments well.
Copland began writing music at age 8 by writing a short piece for an opera, he called
Zenatello. He decided to become a composer at age 15 after attending a concert by Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941), the noted composer-pianist and President of Poland. Between 1917 and 1921, Copland studied under Rubin Goldmark (1872-1936), who had also given lessons to George Gershwin (1898-1937), and obtained a strong background as a composer. In the 1920s, Copland studied music in France, under Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979), the noted music teacher who was then only 34. She immediately recognized his talent and he became one of her several dozen pupils.
In 1925, Copland returned to the United States and settled in a small apartment on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, where he remained for the next 30 years. He was not an immediate success but by living frugally and obtaining two Guggenheim Fellowships, he managed to survive during the early years. Eventually, he was able to build up his career through lecture-recitals, awards, appointments, small commissions, teaching, and writing, he eked out a living. He was strongly influenced by the new musical form of jazz then becoming popular.
In the 1930s, Copland began to write pieces for children and to begin to incorporate his view of the landscape and history of the American West through such works as
The Young Pioneers (1936), his two act opera,
The Second Hurricane(1937), his ballet
Billy The Kid(1938), and his incidental music for the play
Quiet City (1939). He also began writing for radio and for Hollywood films.
In the 1940s, Copland again branched out producing scores for ballets, like
Rodeo (1942) and
Appalachian Spring (1944) that were increasingly popular and successful. Appalachian Spring won the Pulitzer Prize in Music (1945). His
Fanfare for the Common Man (1943) has become the prototypical 20th century American anthem. Copland’s
Third Symphony (1946) also achieved great success.
During the 1950s
Red Scare, Copland's support for left wing and Communist Party candidates since the 1930s, caused him to be investigated by the FBI. While he never officially enrolled as a member of any party, Copland was called to testify before Congress. Luckily for Copland the investigation did not go far. Widespread support for Copland from among the musical community, caused the FBI to end the investigation in 1955 and it never seriously affected his career.
Meanwhile, Copland was having a major impact on many younger American musicians and composers, like Leonard Bernstein, who became one the best conductors of Copland's work. By the 1950s Copland had become an icon in American music.
Over his career, Copland received numerous honors, awards, and recognition for his work. In 1964 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon Johnson. His scores for 4 moves received Academy Award nominations;
The Heiress (1950) won the award for Best Music. In 1986, he received the National Medal of Arts. He received a special Congressional Gold Medal in 1987. In his later years, he was known as the "Dean of American Composers" by his musical peers.
Copland kept his personal life very private. Neither his public remarks nor his written letters and documents reveal much about his intimate relations. Most of his closest associates had progressive, socialist, communist and generally left wing leanings; but he never excluded others from his circle so long as they were talented. He never married and has been described as "gay" by some biographers, but he never accepted such a description. In 1960, he moved from the Upper West Side to Cortlandt Manor, New York. He lived there until his death. His home, Rock Hill, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. He died on 2 December 1990 of Alzheimer's disease and respiratory failure. He was 90 years old.
"Aaron Copland". [Biographical Sketch]
"Aaron Copland Papers, 1971 (#DSU.2013.0650)". 0.02 lin. ft.
Archives of DePauw University and Indiana United Methodism, Greencastle, IN.
"Aaron Copland Collection, 1898-1981 (Bulk: 1920-1950)". 1,000 items (5,000 images)
Library of Congress Digital Collections.
"Aaron Copland Papers, 1841-1991 (#ML31.C7)". 563 boxes. 306 lin. ft.
Music Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
Author: Jonathan Dembo, 3/3/2017
Stuart Wright collected and compiled the Aaron Copland Papers. He was born, Stuart Thurman Wright, on 30 March 1948, in Roxboro, North Carolina. He was the son of Frances Critcher Wright (1919-2010) and Wallace Lyndon Wright (1921-1965). An avid reader as a boy, Wright developed a strong interest in the American Civil War and with his father toured many of the war's battlefields searching for artifacts and studying the history of the era. At the age of 12, he won a statewide "Johnny Reb" essay contest and by the age of 15 had visited every major battlefield of the Civil War. Wright attended Roxboro High School, from which he graduated in 1966. It was during these years that he developed an interest in collecting historical books and manuscripts and began relationships with a number of local collectors and dealers.
In the fall of 1966, Wright enrolled at Wake Forest University as a pre-med, history, German and music student. Wright earned a B.A. in German and music in 1970. As a graduate student at Wake Forest University, Wright focused his studies on Southern history and literature, his ambition being to build an authoritative Southern Studies collection for the university. He received a master's degree in Southern Studies in 1973 and a second master's degree in U.S. History in 1980. Additionally Wright holds a professional degree from England in a medically related field. It was while studying there that he became interested in Thomas Wolfe, the noted North Carolina native and novelist.
Following his graduation from Wake Forest, Wright began to develop his collections more systematically, acquiring many first editions of Southern writers. In 1976 he began teaching at Reynolda House, a Wake Forest University affiliate dedicated to the arts and arts education. Wright taught classes in American music as well as human anatomy for art students. In 1978 Wright became Lecturer in Education at Wake Forest University. During his 10 years teaching at Wake Forest University, Wright authored numerous works of Civil War and North Carolina history, and dozens of articles, bibliographies, essays and reviews on Southern literature and the writers whose papers he collected. In addition, he developed a strong interest in the writings of the English poet Donald Davie and the Minnesota-born poet Richard Eberhart, whose works he also collected.
At the same time, Wright also began a career as a publisher by starting Palaemon Press in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. By 1984, Palaemon Press had produced 316 titles, consisting mainly of broadsides and limited editions, of the poetry and essays of such Southern writers as A. R. Ammons, Fred Chappell, James Dickey, William Goyen, George Garrett, and Eudora Welty. He also built comprehensive collections and compiled book-length descriptive bibliographies of A.R. Ammons, Andrew Lytle, Reynolds Price, James Dickey, William Goyen, Walker Percy, Randall Jarrell, Peter Taylor, George Garrett, Richard Eberhart, and Donald Davie. As well as serving as editor of the contemporary literature section of the
Bulletin of Bibliography throughout the 1980s, Wright also contributed pioneering checklists of the writings of Southern poets Henry Taylor, Charles Wright, and Robert Morgan. For Meckler Publishing he served as series editor for a number of book-length bibliographies and checklists. In recognition of these accomplishments, when he was just 32, Wright was elected to membership in New York's prestigious Grolier Club.
All of these works are represented in the Stuart Wright Collection. In his dealings with these various authors Wright made consistent efforts to acquire personal papers, letters and documents, photographs, manuscripts, drafts, proofs, and published materials to supplement his continuing activities as a purchaser of their works. In this way, Wright acquired perhaps a majority of his overall collection. Over the years a number of biographers used Wright's collection to aid their research. For example, James A. Grimshaw, Jr. used the collection extensively for his
Robert Penn Warren: A Descriptive Bibliography, 1922-1979 published by the University Press of Virginia, in 1981 and Craig S. Abbott did so as well for
John Crowe Ransom: A Descriptive Bibliography, published by Whitston Publishing Company, Inc. in 1999. Joseph Blotner also used the Wright collection in researching
Robert Penn Warren: A Biography, published by Random House in 1997.
Nevertheless, from the mid- to late 1980s, Wright began to look for a permanent home for his collection, which he felt had grown too large and yet had been too little used. Unable to find a repository willing to accept the entire collection under suitable conditions, he sold a number of individual author collections to Vanderbilt University, Duke University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Emory University. It was not until 2010 that he reached agreement to house the remaining, and largest part of his collection at East Carolina University. The Stuart Wright Collection in the East Carolina Manuscript Collection of J.Y. Joyner Library includes 106 sub-collections of the papers of Southern American writers, illustrators, composers, and publishers. The related Stuart Wright Book Collection holds several thousand volumes by or about many of the same writers. Many of these volumes contain annotations, inscriptions, and insertions that reveal much about the authors in the collection and their relationships with one another. In 1998 Wright moved to England, and since 2001 he has resided in the medieval market town of Ludlow, in Shropshire.
Author: Jonathan Dembo, 11/2/2016