George Gershwin: A Musical Life

Fairfield University

Orin Grossman is renowned internationally for his knowledge of music. He lectures and performs concerts throughout the US and Europe, taught Performing Arts for many years at Fairfield University, and has served as the University’s Academic Vice President. Professor Grossman has been particularly associated with the music of George Gershwin, performing concerts of his song transcriptions and classical pieces to critical praise around the world, including performances in Cairo and New York. Professor Grossman was also chosen to play for the New York City Mayor’s Awards of Honor for Arts and Culture.




George Gershwin was a true rarity in American music. He was at home both in popular and classical music and is beloved equally for his amazing collection of songs that help define the Great American Songbook and for his brilliant classical compositions.

Gershwin drew on the full American experience to create such masterpieces as “An American in Paris,” Porgy and Bess, and “Rhapsody in Blue.” Coming of age in the 1920’s, Gershwin is one of a handful of artists (F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway come to mind) who personifies the energy and complexity of the 1920’s and still speaks to us today. This presentation will include performances by Professor Grossman of his music in Gershwin’s own piano arrangements – some rarely heard today.


Recommended Reading:

George Gershwin, by Larry Starr

George Gershwin: His Life and Work, by Howard Pollack

The Life and Times of Porgy and Bess, by Hollis Alpert


Discussion Questions:

  1. What factors may have contributed to the explosion of great American music in the 1920’s, with Richard Rodgers, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin, among others?
  2. Gershwin, more than the other white songwriters of the era (except Harold Arlen), borrowed heavily from Black musical styles such as the Blues. Is he guilty of cultural appropriation? Would he be criticized today, particularly for Porgy and Bessan opera with an all-Black cast?
  3. Most of the great Broadway songwriters who created the Great American songbook were Jewish. Is this a coincidence, or can you suggest possible contributing factors?






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Hans Bleiker

Enjoyed every moment of the lecture and performance.

1 year ago

excellent lecture

I loved the way the presenter pointed out similarities in music of George Gershwin’s time.

12 months ago
Judy Polatchek

Wonderful presentation

I love Gershwin music even more than I did before. I just ordered a recording of Rhapsody in Blue.

12 months ago


12 months ago
Maggie Olmstead

Informative and entertaining

Brought out a lot of information that I didn’t know about George Gershwin and his time.

12 months ago
Naomi Herman

Thank you!! Now I know!

I loved his music, but I didn’t get all the nuances of his style and the origins of his themes. What a great presentation!

12 months ago
Alan Altman


The genius of Gershwin presented so thoughtfully by Orin Grossman. An absolute treat.

11 months ago
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