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Ferde Grofé
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    (March 27, 1892-April 3, 1972)
    Born in New York City, New York
    Birth name was Ferdinand Rudolph von Grofé
    Last name pronounced 'grow-fay'
    Pianist and chief arranger for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra (1920-32)
    Composed 'Mississippi Suite' (1925), 'Grand Canyon Suite' (1931), 'Death Valley Suite' (1949), 'Hudson River Suite' (1955), 'Niagara Falls Suite' (1961) and 'Hawaiian Suite' (1965)
    Composed scores for the films 'Redemption' (1930), 'Minstrel Man' (1944), 'Time Out of Mind' (1947) and 'Rocketship X-M' (1950)
    Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame (1970)
    He ran away from home when his stepfather would not let him drop out of school, and worked as a truck driver, milkman, usher, newsboy, elevator operator and pianist in a bar.
    He was married three times and divorced twice.
    George Gershwin complained that Grofé listed himself as a co-composer of 'Rhapsody in Blue.'
    A critic described his lush orchestrations 'the essence of slick commercialism.'
    His ubiquity prompted conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler to complain, 'America has no composers, only arrangers.'
    The 'On the Trail' segment of his 'Grand Canyon Suite' was used as a musical signature for radio programs sponsored by Philip Morris cigarettes.
    He came from four generations of musicians.
    Gershwin admitted that Grofe's orchestration of 'Rhapsody in Blue' was a key element in the success of the piece.
    He was one of the pallbearers at Gershwin's funeral.
    He taught orchestration at the Juilliard School of Music.
    Because of its wide dynamic range, 'Grand Canyon Suite' became a particularly popular record for audiophiles testing their stereo systems.
    He said about the Grand Canyon Suite, 'I think I have spoken of America in this music simply because America spoke to me... If I have succeeded in capturing some part of the American musical spirit, I am grateful that I was trained to do so.'

Credit: C. Fishel

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