One of the greatest American composers, Aaron Copland, was born on November 14, 1900 in New York. He was the youngest child of Sarah Mitenthal and Harris Copland, Jewish immigrants from Lithuania. The surname of the family was actually Kaplan before his father “Anglicized ”it to Copland, while in England, before immigrating to the United States. He had four older siblings, Ralph, Leon, Laurine, and Josephine. His childhood was spent living above and working in his parent’s department store. Even at a very young age, Copland was expected to help in the store and he favored the toy department for practicing his selling skills.
Although his parents really did not directly expose him to music, he started showing a marked interest around the age of seven. His cousin had acquired a new invention, the phonograph. Aaron spent hours listening to records on this amazing piece of machinery. Aaron began to ask his sister to teach him to play the piano. After much harassment by her younger brother, Laurine relented and began to give him lessons in 1911. By the time he had turned fifteen, he had decided to become a composer. He even took a correspondence course in writing harmony. Around this time, he decided that he had learned all he could from his sister and asked his parents to send him to a professional teacher. He began his studies with his first professional piano teacher, Ludwig Wolfshon, in Brooklyn in 1914. At the age of sixteen, he went to Manhattan to study with Rubin Goldmark, who was well respected as a private instructor. Goldmark was responsible for teaching Copland the fundamentals of composition and counterpoint.
He began to immerse himself in music as much as possible by attending performances at the New York Symphony and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. In 1921, Copland left for France to study music at the newly established music school for Americans at Fontainebleau. He was the first American to study under the brilliant composer,...