Symphony merges jazz, Broadway, Bernstein in opener (via Hutchinson News)

Fusion in the arts has been around for some time. We hear constantly of musicians who “cross over,” move from one genre to another. As we all know, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It basically comes down to the artist and their inherent understanding of each genre and their ability to coalesce, coerce and combine elements of each style into a coherent, unique new sound.

In the early 1920s, George Gershwin was a young and relatively unknown composer who’d written a few tunes, made a bit of money doing it and was still searching for his musical identity and a big break. One night, while at a pool hall with his brother Ira and another friend, Ira came across an article in the New York Tribune announcing an upcoming concert in which new American music would be presented by bandleader Paul Whiteman, including a “jazz concerto by George Gershwin.” Until that moment, Gershwin had no notion that he was working on such a project. The next day, he was told by Whiteman that the article came out to upstage another bandleader in the city who also was planning a concert of American jazz orchestral music. Gershwin bought into the idea of composing the work, in spite of the fact that he had only four weeks to work on it.

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