Gershwin and Schillinger


George Gershwin

George Gershwin probably the greatest American Composer struggled with the fact that his fame was based on popular tunes. He took lessons with many teachers.  The one teacher that is most known as Gershwin’s teacher is Joseph Schillinger. The Gershwin Family discounts the effect of Schillinger’s teachings on George Gershwin but there is no doubt that his style had changed after his lessons began.

Russian Joseph Schillinger‘s influence as Gershwin’s teacher of composition (1932–1936) was substantial in providing him with a method of composition. There has been some disagreement about the nature of Schillinger’s influence on Gershwin. After the posthumous success of Porgy and Bess, Schillinger claimed he had a large and direct influence in overseeing the creation of the opera; Ira completely denied that his brother had any such assistance for this work.

From Wikipedia

Vernon Duke tells of the impact Schillinger had on Gershwin’s music,  In the article” Gershwin, Schillinger, and Duklesky: Some Reminiscence” Musical Quarterly (1947), .

The Rhumba  ‘Cuban Overture” is the first piece Gershwin wrote under Schillinger’s tutelage.

Cuban Overture


There are clear Schillinger permutations, expansions and contractions in Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm Variations”.

 I Got Rhythm Variations

Now Porgy and Bess is another story. There have been two scholarly articles written about different Schillinger techniques employed by the composer. Also the orchestration sounds very similar to Schillinger’s own orchestrations.

Ain’t Necessarily So

One thought on “Gershwin and Schillinger”

  1. Patrick Littlejohn says:

    I love Gershwin, I knew that he was a student of Joseph Schillinger. I am a student of the Schillinger system of composition and theory. I am now attending The Practical Schillinger School of music. Phil Ditullio is the founder and instructor of the school. I will be learning how to integrate the Schillinger system of composition with my style of composition.

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