Famous American composers


From the beginning of the 19th century, America started to bring its contribution to the world heritage through the great minds and talents that were born on American soil. Brilliant composers created critical musical compositions that are now considered classics. Without claiming to offer a comprehensive list of all the American composers with notable masterpieces, here is a list of famous people who put their talent to work and delivered the world incredible musical pieces.


George Gershwin (1898-1937)

One of the best known American composers, if not the most famous, George Gershwin was born into a family of immigrants of Russian descent. A high school dropout who considered he had better things to do than rub his elbows on a school desk, Gershwin delved into the world of music by first working as a so-called ‘song plugger’, which was the term at the time for a pianist who performed demonstrations of songs.

He was only 26 years old when he created his masterpiece, Rhapsody in Blue. Another masterpiece he created was Porgy and Bess, a black opera that was going to become a classic, and one of the most famous operas of the 20th century.

Samuel Barber (1910-1981)

His Adagio for Strings is considered now one of the iconic classical pieces of the previous century, and Samuel Barber is among the most famous American composers. Seeing that he is best known for his musical compositions, you might be surprised to learn that he studied at the Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute not only as a composer but also as a singer. The Violin Concerto is, as well, one of his significant contributions to the world’s musical landscape.


Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

It is nothing unusual for American composers’ activity to be tangled with movie successes. World famous for West Side Story, the 20th century’s Romeo and Juliet, Leonard Bernstein makes it to this list and should be on any list of famous American composers.

He was born in Massachusetts, but, after he finished his studies at Harvard, he moved to New York, where he was going to be catapulted to a world of fame and professional successes.


John Williams (1932-)

The only chance you have never listened to something created by the brilliant mind of John Williams is if you have never watched a Hollywood movie in your entire life. Responsible for the soundtracks of movies such as Star Wars, E.T., and Schindler’s List, renowned for their epic and inspirational quality, John Williams has already garnered numerous accolades and in 2000, received a well-deserved place on the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame.


Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

The Russian-born Stravinsky was going to gain recognition on American soil after periods of time spent in France and Switzerland, and, to this day, he is considered among the most influential figures to have lived during the 20th century. His musical innovations changed this field forever.