|AARON COPLAND (1900-1990)
Aaron Copland was the pioneer of American music -- he showed the world how to write classical music in an American way. He was born in 1900, when Americans were rarely recognized as composers in the music world. So Copland went to Europe for serious study, and, in the 1920s, wrote pieces with the flavor of jazz. European classical composers were also influenced by jazz at this time, as they were searching for new ways to bring their music into the 20th century.
Copland's early works Grohg and Music for the Theatre show jazz influence. But he was soon to shed this in favor of strictly classical yet modernist works. With the great depression of the 1930s, when millions of Americans were unable to find work, the appeal of abstract music began to wane. So beginning in 1938, Copland produced a series of ballets that were to be widely heard and musically influential: Billy the Kid (a ballet about a legendary western outlaw, complete with cowboy songs, commissioned in 1938 by Kirstein for Eugene Loring), Rodeo (another Wild West ballet, about a cowgirl's search for a man) and Appalachian Spring (commissioned by the choreographer Martha Graham). When World War II began, the Cincinnati Symphony needed a patriotic American hero, and Copland -- by now one of the most famous composers in America -- wrote A Lincoln Portrait. For the same orchestra, he created his noble Fanfare for the Common Man.
While Copland never abandoned the more adventurous style (including, later in his life, twelve-tone composition), he is best remembered, and justly so, for creating a truly American symphonic style. Over the course of his life he not only served as a trendsetter, but also played an important role in the development of younger composers at places such as the Berkshire Music Center. He was, in fact, the musical father to more than one generation of young composers.
Adapted from: http://www.essentialsofmusic.com/composer/copland.html