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Kate Dudding: Voices From the Past: December, 2007

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This is the sixth issue of Voices From the Past. My goal for each issue is to publish some highlights of one of my historical stories as well as an update on my activities. Please feel free to forward this e-newsletter to anyone you think might be interested.

What Will George Do Next?

Photo of George Gershwin, age 37, 1936 Frankie Gershwin liked to tell this story about her brother: "The neighbors always said when we were growing up in the Lower East side of Manhattan, 'Mrs. Gershwin has such nice children, but she’s going to have a problem with that George.'" That was, of course, before George Gershwin discovered the piano and music.

George was around 12 when the piano arrived in the Gershwin apartment. Ira, the oldest brother, was the one was going to take piano lessons. However, Ira later recalled,

"The upright had scarcely been put in place when George twirled the stool down to size, sat, lifted the keyboard cover and played an accomplished version of a popular song. We were all amazed at this previously unknown talent of George’s. How had he done it? He’d been fooling around and experimenting on a piano at the home of a schoolmate. With little discussion, it was decided that the lesson-taker would be George."

George took lessons from all the teachers in their Lower East Side neighborhood and played the assembly marches for his schools. His mother wanted him to be an accountant. But he only stayed one term in high school. At age 15, he dropped out to become a piano player for a music publishing company, for $15 a week, then a good salary for a high school graduate, let alone a 15 year old. He worked at various jobs in the music field: a free-lance accompanist, a composer, making piano rolls, playing in obscure Brooklyn clubs. Whatever George did, he was always fascinated by rhythm and jazz.

His first hit, written when George was only 19, was Swanee, which Al Jolson subsequently sang.

Everyone who knew George wondered, "What will George do next?" He went on to do so many things, including becoming the first composer to start with popular and Broadway music, then go to composing for the concert stage.

Here is some more information about George Gershwin.

News about me

If you want to hear more about George Gershwin, come to the opening performance of a new storytelling series for adults at Proctors in Schenectady, NY -- Word Plays. On Saturday, January 26, at 7:30 pm, Nancy Marie Payne and I tell stories about Gusto. At Word Plays, performers tell rarely heard contemporary and traditional stories. You will discover that Word Plays is a shared experience between the audience and the performer, combining the intensity of a one-person play with the intimacy of a one-on-one conversation. $15. Purchase tickets (online or visit the Box Office at Proctors, or call them at (518) 346-6204.

Earlier in the month, on Wednesday, January 16, I'll be telling Painters and Friends: Stories of Claude Monet and John Singer Sargent, at noon, Academy for Lifelong Learning, 111 West Avenue, Saratoga Springs, NY. (518) 587-2100 ext.2415 Free. Learn the stories behind the paintings. Claude Monet and John Singer Sargent were friends as well as giants in their fields and obsessed with light. See images of their paintings while hearing about their work and their lives. I'll be including the story I listed in my July newsletter.

Thanks for reading this issue. I’ll be sending you some more story highlights in a few months.


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Copyright 2007 by Kathryn Eike Dudding. All Rights Reserved.


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