Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
S49 Ep24

Now Hear This "Aaron Copland: Dean of American Music"

Premiere: 4/22/2022 | 00:00:30 | Closed Captioning Icon

Scott Yoo explores the life and work of Aaron Copland, and how he created the American sound.



About the Episode

Premieres Friday, April 22 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), and the PBS Video app

Drawing from his Jewish roots, modernism and American folk music, Pulitzer-, Grammy- and Oscar-winning composer Aaron Copland created a distinctive American sound in both his classical compositions and film scores. Like Copland did for much of his career, host Scott Yoo and fellow musicians spend time working with students at a music festival in Colorado to strengthen their auditioning skills and better understand Copland’s music. To discover Copland’s inspiration, Yoo travels to New York to explore the Jewish music Copland was raised with as well as modernist music through performances by Cantor Daniel Mutlu, violinist Steven Copes, cellist Mark Kosower, festival music director and pianist Susan Grace and more. Later, Yoo becomes the student and learns from pianist and Copland enthusiast John Novacek about how the composer developed his signature sound, now so familiar to us all.

Places visited: Colorado Springs, Colorado; New York, New York

Follow celebrated violinist and conductor Scott Yoo as he travels the United States to uncover the musical influences of some of America’s most prominent composers — Amy Beach, Florence Price and Aaron Copland — in of the third season of Great Performances: Now Hear This. The documentary miniseries also spotlights two contemporary composers weaving the traditional music of their heritage into their compositions: Brazilian-born Sergio Assad and Indian American Reena Esmail. From coast to coast, the series shines a light on the immigrant experience as told through music, featuring local artists across musical genres including gospel, blues and more. Great Performances: Now Hear This Series 3 premieres Fridays, April 8-29 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings), and the PBS Video app as part of #PBSForTheArts.

Yoo is the Chief Conductor of the Mexico City Philharmonic, Music Director of Festival Mozaic, Conductor of the Colorado College Music Festival and the Founder of the Medellín Festicámara, a chamber music and social program in Colombia. He has conducted the London Symphony, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Yomiuri Nippon Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic, Dallas Symphony and San Francisco Symphony, among many others.

#PBSForTheArts is a multiplatform campaign that celebrates the arts in America. For more than 50 years, PBS has been the media destination for the arts, presenting dance, theater, opera, visual arts and concerts to Americans in every corner of the country. Previous Great Performances programs include Romeo & Juliet from the National Theatre, The Arts InterruptedCoppeliaFrom Vienna: The New Year’s Celebration 2022, Reopening: The Broadway Revival and The Conductor premiering Friday, March 25 on PBS. The collection of #PBSForTheArts programs is available at the PBS Video app. Curated conversation and digital shorts are also available on PBS social media platforms using #PBSForTheArts.

Throughout its nearly 50-year history on PBS, Great Performances has provided an unparalleled showcase of the best in all genres of the performing arts, serving as America’s most prestigious and enduring broadcaster of cultural programming. Showcasing a diverse range of artists from around the world, the series has earned 67 Emmy Awards and six Peabody Awards. The Great Performances website hosts exclusive videos, interviews, photos, full episodes and more. The series is produced by The WNET Group.

Great Performances is available for streaming concurrent with broadcast on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.organd the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO. PBS station members can view many series, documentaries and specials via PBS Passport. For more information about PBS Passport, visit the PBS Passport FAQ website.

Great Performances: Now Hear This was created by producer, writer and director Harry Lynch and is a production of Arcos Film + Music. Harry Lynch, Scott Yoo and Richard Lim are executive producers. For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is series producer and David Horn is executive producer.

Series funding for Great Performances is made possible by The Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Arts Fund, the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, Jody and John Arnhold,  The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, the Thea Petschek Iervolino Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, The Starr Foundation, the Seton J. Melvin, the Estate of Worthington Mayo-Smith, and Ellen and James S. Marcus. Funding for Now Hear This is also provided by The Iris and Joseph Pollock Fund, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, and the Jack Lawrence Charitable Trust.

Websites: #NowHearThisOnPBS #PBSForTheArts


♪♪ -Coming up on 'Great Performances'... I'm Scott Yoo.

I'm at a teaching festival, where the pros help guide the next generation.

This year we're playing the music of Aaron Copland -- fitting, since Copland himself taught at festivals like this one.

Of course what I'm telling you is really what my teachers told me.

And that's what keeps us having a world full of good violinists.

-So look for the pieces that can shape you and teach you.

-But before that, Copland was a rebel, whose music pushed the envelope and pushed away listeners.

♪♪ -He used to pull this out at parties and play it, just to clear the room basically.

[ Laughter ] And it worked.

-Why, and how, did he transform his style to define a pure and simple American sound?

You have to be thinking about how you can serve the artform.

And through that, guide and inspire a whole generation of composers?

-And he advocated writing in a more lean, strong style.

-More Copland. -More Copland.

Right, his style.

-In the next episode of 'Now Hear This,' get to know 'Copland: Dean of American Music.'

♪♪ [ Orchestral music playing ] -The American West has a soundtrack -- a bold, open, heroic sound, simple yet profound, that for Americans just feels right for this land.

♪♪ However, this American sound didn't always exist.

Until Aaron Copland invented it.

♪♪ ♪♪ This new style of music was inspired in part by Copland's lifelong mission to simplify.

♪♪ It's great. Sounds great.

I did this piece with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, I think eight times, many years ago.

And their bassoonist at the time had played this piece with Copland himself.

And I asked him, 'What did Copland tell you?'

thinking he'd unlocked the secret to 'Appalachian Spring.'

And all he said was, 'Play it frankly.'

And that's all he said, over and over and over.

'Play it frankly.' Meaning, play it simply.

So, I think it's very important that we not embellish the rhythm and color the rhythm, you know, like compressing notes or rushing things or dragging things.

It's very important to be sort of just and simple.

So why don't we start at 11?

[ Exhales sharply ] [ Orchestral music playing ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ For one month, each year, I'm in the American West, at a teaching festival at Colorado College.

It's a chance for promising students to learn from seasoned pros, by playing together and taking lessons.

This summer we're focusing on Copland, to understand his music and to celebrate his devotion to teaching.

♪♪ [ Music stops, birds chirping ] At the festival, we have classes across campus, like in this old house of the college president.

Here, students are rehearsing a piano trio by Rubin Goldmark, who has a special connection to this festival and to Copland.

So, Rubin Goldmark was born in New York.

He was taught by Dvorák.

So his music actually for me, really sounds like baby Dvorák -- very, very central European in its language.

Then he came out here to Colorado Springs.

He spent seven years here because he founded the Colorado College Conservatory of Music.

None of us would be here today if it were not for Rubin Goldmark.

You know, he was probably teaching the same things to his students then that we're teaching to you.

In fact, he actually might have been in this very room, playing on this piano.

He goes back to New York and he becomes the first composition teacher at Juilliard.

So he's actually more known as a teacher.

His students included Gershwin... and Copland.

Obviously, Rubin Goldmark is not a household name; his legacy is in his students.

So let's hear how this piece sounds, what do you say?


[ Orchestral music playing ] ♪♪ -Becoming a great musician requires great teachers who pass down knowledge across generations -- just as Dvorák taught Goldmark who taught Copland.

Pianist John Novacek and I come here each year to pass down what was taught to us.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Okay, that sounds great.


So, the gesture of this piece is... ♪ Da, do, dada, yun dada ♪ Right? That 'yun dada,' those three notes are the gesture.

And here in the beginning... [ Violin playing ]'s kind of mysterious.

But then here... [ Violin playing ]'s obviously very strong, but it has this extra note, 'Di -- yun dada.'

I'm thinking since it's extra, you should do something special with that.

-And coming off of them, [vocalizing] if you can really feel the tension of that brief rest, and really come off of that for your flourish going up.

-Okay. Same place? -Yeah.

[ Orchestral music playing ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Copland understood the importance of teaching.

It's why he taught for years at teaching festivals like this one.

But before he could do that, he had to find his path.

[ Music slows ] [ Music stops, man singing in Hebrew ] Copland was born in New York the son of Jewish immigrants and grew up listening to Jewish music.

I went to visit Cantor Daniel Mutlu at the Central Synagogue to hear some for myself.

[ Instrumental music playing ] -[ Singing Hebrew ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Fantastic.

-Thank you. -Wow, you sound amazing.

-Thank you.

-So is this something Copland would've heard?

-100%. Copland was around.

So, he was born in 1900. He was in New York City.

And when you think that his family from Lithuania was conservative, they must have taken him to synagogue, at least on the holidays.

And that, on the holidays, by the way, is where the big heavy hitter cantors and pieces were sung.

-So this is what he heard as a kid?


And we know that the stuff that you hear as a child, it becomes part of us.

He internalized this music.

-Yes. -In fact, he heard this play called 'The Dybbuk,' and he must have been completely transfixed by it, because he took one of the tunes from there, which is a Jewish tune, origins in Hasidic music, and used it as a basis for his piano trio.

-No kidding. What's the piece called?

-So, the tune is called 'Mipnei Ma.'

-'Mipnei Ma.'

-And the play is all about demonic possession and being stuck between two worlds.

Copland must have been really enraptured by this and thought of himself both as a young Jewish composer, but also out in the world, you know, as an American.

So he's kind of reworking this in his piece.

-So this is the source material for 'Vitebsk'? -Absolutely. Yeah.

-Okay. Can't wait to hear it.

[ Instrumental music playing ] -[ Singing Yiddish ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Music stops ] -At the start of his career, Copland took his Jewish roots and Goldmark's romantic training, then took a sharp turn into modernism.

♪♪ I'd see how that shaped his own piano trio with Steve Copes, Mark Kosower, and festival director Sue Grace.

♪♪ This is the same composer that wrote 'Appalachian Spring'? -[ Laughs ] It's a very different world.

It's jarring for the listener.

It's jarring for us.

I don't know anything else by Copland that has these quarter tones, which are intentionally out of tune notes.

It sounds like a shofar, a little bit.

That instrument, the rams horn, that plays on Rosh Hashanah, on the Jewish new year.

It's not right in the center of the pitch.

It's right below the pitch, instead of this... [ Violin playing ] ...or above the pitch... [ Violin playing ] ...but this is intentionally written.

There's a special little marking that he writes.

-So we get to play the notes that we're normally not supposed to play.

-Exactly. [ Chuckles ] -So it says 'Study on a Jewish theme.'

So you're Jewish. What does that mean?

-Um, what does being Jewish mean?

-[ Laughs ] -You know, I think there's a sense of joy mixed with melancholy that's kind of in our blood, for better or worse, based on history.

And this theme, 'Mipnei Ma,' that you hear throughout the piece, this very beautiful theme, is that melancholy theme.

You know, the... [ Violin playing ] And he transforms that into a, you know, later section where... [ Violin playing ]'s just these intervals all the time.

And that's kind of that thing where we have the melancholy in us, but we're also -- we have to have a lot of joy and smiling through tears.

-Right. I think this piece in particular was depicting the harshness of Jewish life in Russia.

And the way he kind of makes this harshness come out in the piano part, he writes a minor chord... [ Piano playing ] ...and he writes a major chord... [ Piano playing ] ...and then puts them together at the same time. [ Piano playing ] And then he leaves the minor second to keep sounding.

And so that's what's so jarring, I think, for this and I think what he was trying to depict with his life back then.

-And this piece was written right sort of at the climax of the roaring '20s.

And you can really hear the urban sounds, before he goes out West and truly experiences the expanse of the New World.

-Let's hear some of those roaring '20 sounds.

♪♪ ♪♪ So that sounds much more like Copland.

I mean, there are two bars of Copland, two bars of modernism, two bars of Copland -- or at least the familiar Copland.

-Yes, absolutely. -I agree.

It's straight out of 'Appalachian Spring.'

It's that kind of joyous dance music in 'Appalachian Spring.'

And there's another section of this piece that has that quality of music, but also the kind of modernism from the beginning, the dissonance, plus the song 'Mipnei Ma' which is mixed in there.

So he kind of blends all these three elements, and maybe we should play some of that right now?

-Let's do it.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -That signature American sound was clearly a long way off for the young composer.

[ Instrumental music playing ] Meanwhile, our young musicians are getting tips from the pros, in music and life as a professional musician.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Liz Koch Tiscione, one of our most successful alums, has come back to teach with her teacher, Rob Walters.

♪♪ Beautiful.

-Great. -Yeah, great job.

-Thank you.

-Gwen, that was really spectacular playing.

Your finger technique is so smooth and even, and that's really hard.

This is a hard piece of music, but you're doing a really nice job making it look easy when it's not.

One thing I'd want to say to you is that think about yourself as this diva on stage and this is your big aria and to really make the oboe sound like a human voice.

I mean, that's really the goal.

Mozart was a brilliant opera composer, so just pretend -- embody that soprano vibe, and try to portray that when you play this.

-You know, that's a good point about an opera singer, because you're a soloist.

This is a concerto, right?

You need to be out on the front of the stage, commanding the audience.

So, Gwen, as you seek to enter the profession of orchestral music, you may get lucky like Liz here.

But perseverance is as important as your own talent, just the sticking with it over a long time.

It took me till I was 29 before I got my first orchestra job in the Cincinnati Symphony.

And you know, I transitioned from the oboe to the English horn, which is not something I sought out to do.

But somebody asked me to go on a tour of Spain playing 'Quiet City.'

I'm like, 'Copland? Oh, yeah.'

So I borrowed an English horn; I didn't even own one at the time.

And I got to play this piece 11 times all over Spain.

And after each performance, it kind of sunk into me a little deeper that, 'Wait, maybe this is my voice, that this is my home instrumentally and musically.'

And that piece really taught me, gave me the keys to myself.

It's a beautiful piece of music that transformed my life.

So, look for the pieces that can shape you, and teach you who you are.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Music stops, leaves rustling ] [ Birds chirping ] ♪♪ -Copland wrote 'Quiet City' in his 30s.

By then he had begun a transition, encouraged by a photographer and writing for modern dance companies.

I went to talk about this with John, who's something of a Copland historian, in the quiet woods of upstate New York, where Copland built his home and studio.

You know, those handles on the cabinets?

-Yeah. -There is no question that Copland pulled on those. -Wow.

-Right? I mean, no question.

I mean, this phone?

I'm sure he used this phone.

He could have drank out of this mug.


-You know, Copland was actually kind of wealthy, especially as a composer.

He did extremely well.

-Very successful. Yeah.

-But this is a rather plain kitchen and he just, you know, he lived simply. -Right.

It's really very heartening in a way, it's kind of magical.

Because it a perfect match to his music; the style, the aesthetic.

I mean, we love Copland's music for its plain-spokenness, and its riddance of non-essential embellishment.

And he really lived that.

It's all of a piece.

-Let's go hear some. -Let's do it.

[ Piano playing jarringly ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ That's the tune.

Not something you would whistle in the park every day.

-[ Laughs ] Right. -And it's well known that Leonard Bernstein loved this piece.

He fell in love with Copland's music very early on.

And he used to pull this out at parties and play it just to clear the room, basically.

[ Laughter ] And it worked.

And that was Copland in 1930.

And then he was drawn into the circle of the great photographer, Alfred Stieglitz.

-Mm-hmm. -And the general philosophy that Stieglitz pontificated was that in American art, we had to tap into what is American and reflect the possibilities of democracy in America.

He called it 'Affirm America.'

So Copland really did feel a social responsibility, and he wanted to connect more with the audience.

He felt that was necessary. -Mm-hmm.

-He was no doubt influenced by folk music, and he moved into a slightly different era.

The first of the great ballets was 'Billy the Kid.'

And 'Billy the Kid' famously opens with a depiction of 'The Open Prairie.'

And we have... [ Piano playing ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ So exquisite.

I would say right there, you have the birth of one aspect of American music, an American sound that many people identify as American sound.

After 'Billy the Kid,' this seemed to just open the floodgate of his great American pieces.

He's writing 'Fanfare for the Common Man,' the 'Lincoln Portrait.'

The next ballet was 'Rodeo,' which was based again on a lot of cowboy tunes but was more the comic side to what 'Billy the Kid' was the tragic side.

And 'Rodeo' is a wonderfully infectious piece.

Of course.

[ Piano playing ] It has all those American-sounding strong harmonies.

And most famous probably is the 'Hoedown,' which has become an iconic piece of Americana, which is a brilliant arrangement by Copland but really takes almost intact in the central section a barn dance, kind of a square dance, that is called 'Bonyparte.'

♪♪ ♪♪ 'The Hoedown.'

I can't dance, and even I want to dance while I'm playing that!

-[ Laughs ] -So, 'Rodeo' was a big success for Agnes de Mille and for Copland and really set a new tone in American music.

But this all led to what is probably Copland's masterpiece, certainly in this part of his career.

And that is 'Appalachian Spring.'

I mean, you know, taking those two chords... [ Piano playing ] ...and putting them together... [ Piano playing ] ...just gives you chills. -Mm-hmm.

-That really is such an open, fresh sound.

And he did, in this case, incorporate a Shaker tune, and that Shaker tune is 'Simple Gifts' or a 'Gift to be Simple.'

[ Piano playing ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Copland answered the call to 'Affirm America' by writing music that brought Americans together.

Drawing from the pure enduring melodies of folk music, he applied his romantic training and modern sensibility to create the new American sound.

♪♪ ♪♪ Copland worked hard to simplify the music, leaving in only what was necessary -- which actually makes it more challenging.

♪♪ It's so hard to play this well because everything is either a fifth or a fourth.


-And you know when you're wrong.

And I think that's the difficulty of playing Copland.

It is so simple, and so plain. It's like Mozart.

I mean, any little detail is wrong, anything's a little sharp, a little flat, and you know.

Copland will never let you get away with that.

-For sure. I think this is -- this kind of thing is one of the most difficult things to do.

-In the whole literature. -Yeah.

And I think if we play into the sound of the second violins, into their lower octaves especially when they have that, that will help.

The balance is a huge part of that.

-Mm-hmm. -But if we play into your sound a bit more, I think that -- -And we'll play confidently.

We'll play firmly, and just give them a support.

-And that'll help the character of this, the purity of this.

-Sure. Let's try again.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Oh, that's the most perfect I've ever heard that.

That was incredible.

So just don't forget that one.

That was really good.

Now the concert's going to suck because we played it so well just now.

[ Laughter ] Copland used his increasing fame to support and encourage young musicians' careers.

And we do too -- sometimes through tough love, like in our mock auditions.

This is actually a really important exercise.

Auditions are like hen's teeth.

I mean, they are so rare.

First of all, there aren't going to be six of you.

They're going to be 200 of you, and they'll all would be rooting for you to fail.

Because they are there to take your job away from you.

That is what is at stake.

That's why we practice this.

Let's go do it, okay? Let's go.

[ Papers rustle ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Thank you.

♪♪ ♪♪ Thank you.

♪♪ Andrew, stop.

Start again and get a clean one.

♪♪ Thank you!

♪♪ Thank you.

♪♪ ♪♪ Thank you.

I mean, how did that feel?

-Kinda tough. -Not good.

[ Laughter ] -Don't hold back.

-Whatever excerpt you played under this condition, when you get to an actual audition, it won't be as stressful and strange, and you'll know, 'Oh yeah, I've got this one.

I did this back then in Colorado.'

-It also informs the way you have to prepare, because you have to be so bulletproof in your preparation that nothing can knock you off your game, no matter how crazy or weird everything feels in the moment.

-You have to believe it.

You can't just say to yourself, 'I can do this,' and half-believe it.

You have to actually own that statement, that mantra that you've created for yourself.

-I'm a firm believer that the way you play in a concert or in an audition is the average of everything that happens in the practice room.

You have to make sure that the average, the mean, of your level of playing in the practice room is so high, that when you get up there and your hands are sweaty, or your lips are chapped or whatever, it's still enough to win.

Well, good luck guys.

-Thank you. -Thank you.

-Once Copland had found his American sound, he wanted to use it in new ways.

I went to talk to John again about that.

-You know, by the early '30s, Copland began to think that modern music was hitting a certain impasse, and he very much wanted to reach a wide audience.

He wrote music for high school productions.

He wrote music for the radio.

He wrote theatrical pieces like 'Quiet City,' and that caught the attention of some of the producers and directors in Hollywood.

And he wrote a series of film scores in the '40s, almost each one of which earned an Academy Award nomination.

One of them actually won.

-So they had good taste. -They had good taste!

-[ Laughs ] -I was impressed.

These are of course, very deserving film scores.

But even before he started writing, Copland had very strong ideas about how to score a film.

And he advocated writing in a more lean, strong style, and perhaps being a little more sparing about where you use the music.

-More Copland. -More Copland, right.

His style.

So those films that he wrote in those times were highly influential, and created a whole school of film writing that influenced composers all the way to our time.

Take Thomas Newman.

Newman wrote the score for the 1999 film 'American Beauty,' the Sam Mendes film.

-I love that movie. -It's a great movie.

And it's a score that was profoundly influential, probably best known for some of the little rhythmic ideas that are very marimba drenched.

We have... [ Piano playing ] But there are many atmospheric, psychological moments that again strike a Copland chord.

They're in that 'less is more' school.

[ Piano playing ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ But one could imagine not such a big leap from Copland's 'Billy the Kid.'

[ Piano playing ] ♪♪ -Very similar.

-You know, these Copland scores would be just as fitting today in a film as they were then.

They are evergreen-fresh. -Mm-hmm.

-One of my favorite scores, and one of the most beautiful, is a score he wrote for the 1940 version of Thornton Wilder's 'Our Town.'

Now, this was a perfect meeting of minds in a way, because Wilder's writing was very economical in a way, too.

It's nostalgic, but not overly sentimental.

And Copland just caught this perfectly.

One of Copland's most moving miniatures, for me, is his depiction at the beginning of the film of Grover's Corner, New Hampshire.

This is the fictional setting of 'Our Town.'

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -At every festival, we assemble an all-student orchestra to give them a chance to learn from each other.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ By writing for dance, theatre, and now film, Copland's American sound reached ever wider audiences.

For establishing this new school of music and supporting other composers within it, he began to be called the Dean of American music.

♪♪ [ Violin playing ] ♪♪ So, Virgil... [ Violins playing ] ...just don't press too hard when you're making that shift, and it's going to come out right.

Here we go. [ Exhales sharply ] [ Violins playing ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Bravo, sir.

Really good.

Okay, Suni, what are you going to play?

Mozart? -Yeah.

First movement of Mozart G major.

-Okay, here we go.

[ Violin playing ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Bravo, Suni. -Thank you.

-It's really beautiful, elegant playing.

When I was around your age, I played for Isaac Stern.

I had one lesson with him; it was about four hours long.

He was an incredibly generous man.

And he said something that I will never forget.

I think I played either this concerto or the fifth for him, and he said, 'When you're playing Mozart, if you don't change the character of the music every four or eight bars, you're doing something wrong.'

So you play this piece so well, but let's change the characters even more.

I'm going give you the intro one more time.

♪♪ ♪♪ Okay. Now, that's great.

That was a very buoyant, exuberant character -- but that's four bars.

So you've got to now come up with something different.

So... ♪♪ Oh, I love that! That was cool.

Okay, do that again, but let's make it even more different.

One more time. -Yes.

♪♪ ♪♪ -Okay. So that's really snakey, right?

-Yes. -More.

-Okay. -Okay. Last time, please.

♪♪ ♪♪ Nice!

♪♪ Bravo. -Thank you.

-You know, I remember being a student violinist like it was yesterday.

And obviously, you're a student violinist now, but pretty soon you're going to be teachers yourselves.

And, you know, remember what I tell you, because of course, what I'm telling you is really what my teachers told me.

And you're going to pass that down, and that's what keeps us having a world full of good violinists, is all of that sort of collective knowledge that gets filtered down.

And you're next!

As World War II broke out, Copland was commissioned to write a piece that would inspire the nation.

He called it 'Fanfare for the Common Man.'

Today, you're going to be playing with members of the Colorado Symphony.

They've driven down here to play with us.

And they're going to just expect you to get it on the first try, because that's what they do.

So you're going have to be that much more precise.

-Right. -Concentrate that much more.

It's very, very hard. This is like playing -- this is harder than playing Mozart.

-It is. -Almost.

-Very much so. -Really, really hard.

The common man has a simple language, but this is a profound piece.

-Incredibly so, yeah. -It's simple, and profound.

-And this piece is really meaningful for me, too.

As you know, a lot of military bands play this piece.

My father played in the Air Force Band for 26 years.

-Wow. -And all through my childhood, I went to concerts, and I heard the brass section play this fanfare.

And as many thousands of times I've heard it, every time I hear that opening line, it just still brings goosebumps.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Copland's fanfare has become almost a second national anthem, played by military bands and orchestras, even stadium rock groups across America.

When the Cincinnati Symphony asked him to write it, he agreed -- but only if it could honor the common man, the one who was fighting and dying in World War II.

I think that says a lot about the kind of man that Copland was.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Near the end of the festival, we take the students to find some inspiration in nature, as Copland often did.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Music stops, laughter ] -That sun is so beautiful.

[ Indistinct conversations ] [ Horn blowing ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Cheers and applause ] -Hey, come on up, make another row.

You can sit down.

-[ Indistinct ] [ Laughter ] -How many of you are worried about your futures?

Worrying does not help you.

When you grow up in the household that I grew up in, you know, great household, but we always thought, oh, you know, if you stress out about something it's going to help you.

It does not.

There's one cure for worrying.

It's practicing.

If you you're practicing, you are not worrying.

How many of you have ever been worrying about your career as you're blowing the trumpet?

Bobby, have you ever?

No, you don't.

It really cures everything, practicing!

But I also want to say it this way: rather than worrying about your yourself, worry about the future of classical music and what you can do about it.

Right now, you're students.

So, Andrew, the best thing you can do for classical music right now is to be the greatest horn player you possibly can be.

And know what? You're darn close.

Suni, the best thing you can do right now is become the best, most beautiful violinist you can be.

But once you're not students, you have to be thinking about, how can I take this art form and make it last for my children and my children's children.

Here, even at this college, Colorado College, Copland's teacher taught here.

Now we're teaching here.

You know what?

In 20 years, you might be teaching here.

Soon you have to be thinking about how you can serve the art form.

That's your job.

That's your life's work.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Copland once said, 'Each generation must create its own music.'

He built on American folk traditions to create a new American sound, then influenced and taught it to a new generation of composers, of orchestra, dance, theatre, and film music.

♪♪ I can't wait to see what this generation of musicians will create.

And pretty soon you and I both will be able to 'Now Hear This.'

♪♪ ♪♪ -To order this program on DVD, visit ShopPBS or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS.

This program is also available on Amazon Prime Video.

♪♪ To find out more about this and other 'Great Performances' programs, visit

Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Next time on 'Great Performances'... we'll meet composers who draw on their heritages and immigrant experiences to create new American music.

Reena Esmail is an Indian-American composer.

Sérgio Assad is Brazilian-American.

Two generations of successful new American composers.

♪♪ Next time on 'Now Hear This,' 'New American Voices.'


PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.