The Great American Classical Composers

United States classical music composer, Aaron Copland, famous for his works including Appalachian Spring and Fanfare for the Common Man. (1900 - 1990)
United States classical music composer, Aaron Copland, famous for his works including Appalachian Spring and Fanfare for the Common Man. (1900 - 1990). Photo by Cleland Rimmer/Getty Images

After the United States declared its independence from Great Britain, settled into its new land, and matured into a thriving nation, arts and music flourished. This is why you rarely see any American composers before the late romantic period - Americans were too busy focusing on the creation of the country! Though it would be nearly impossible to list every classical composer to have came from the United States, I've put together a brief list of some of the most celebrated American composers and YouTube links to several of their notable works.

Samuel Barber: 1910-1981

Born and raised in West Chester, PA, Barber was an extremely successful classical composer, composing works for choir, orchestra, opera, piano, and art song. His notable works are:

Leonard Bernstein: 1918-1990

Conducting wasn't Bernstein's only talent. He also possessed pretty impressive composing skills. He wrote opera, musicals, orchestral music, choral music, piano music, and more. His notable works are:

Aaron Copland: 1900-1990

Copland was born in Brooklyn, NY at the turn of the century. Apart from composing, Copland was a teacher, conductor, and even a writer. Much of Copland's music can be heard on the big and small screens, as it is often used in film and television soundtracks. His notable works are:

Duke Ellington: 1899-1974

Ellington was a prolific composer and created music in a variety of genres ranging from classical to jazz to film.

Thanks to his efforts, the prominence of jazz was elevated to levels on par with popular music. His notable works are:

George Gershwin: 1898-1937

Also born in Brooklyn, Gershwin accomplished many things in his relatively short life. With many fantastic compositions, his music won't be forgotten.

His notable works are:

Charles Ives: 1874-1954

Although Ives received formal training in classical music, because he worked full time in the insurance business, his music was considered by many to be 'amateur'. Time proved otherwise - he is now considered one of the U.S.A.'s first internationally renowned composers. His notable works are:

Scott Joplin: 1867-1917

If you hear someone say "The King of Ragtime", you'll know they are talking about Scott Joplin. Joplin was born in Texas but spent much of his life traveling and performing. Even though Joplin's compositions started America's early obsession with ragtime, he never achieved great success. His notable works are: