2023 Icons

  1. Marin Alsop
  2. Chasten Buttigieg
  3. Madeline Davis
  4. Elana Dykewomon
  5. Tessa Ganserer
  6. Roxane Gay
  7. Lesley Gore
  8. Miss Major Griffin-Gracy
  9. Brittney Griner
  10. Maura Healey
  11. Jazmine Hughes
  12. Eddie Izzard
  13. Michael R. Jackson
  14. Leslie Jordan
  15. Tina Kotek
  16. Marijane Meaker
  17. Scott Minerd
  18. Ryan Murphy
  19. Carl Nassib
  20. Stu Rasmussen
  21. Allen Schindler Jr.
  22. Charles Silverstein
  23. Andrew Solomon
  24. Michael Stipe
  25. Kara Swisher
  26. André Leon Talley
  27. Doris Taylor
  28. Evelyn Thomas
  29. Mpho Tutu van Furth
  30. Samira Wiley
  31. Penny Wong

Aaron Copland
2011 Icon


b. November 14, 1900
d. December 2, 1990

“To stop the flow of music would be like the stopping of time itself, incredible and

Aaron Copland was a world-renowned composer, teacher, writer and conductor. He was a key figure in forming the early 20th century American style of music and composition.

The youngest of five children, Copland was born in Brooklyn to Eastern European Jewish immigrants. Encouraged by his mother, he became interested in music. His older sister taught him to play the piano. At 16, Copland began lessons with composer Rubin Goldmark, who introduced him to the American style of music.  

After graduating high school, Copland played and composed works for dance bands. Inspired by modern European music, he moved to France and attended the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau. There he studied under Nadia Boulanger, who was his muse throughout his time in France.

Copland’s compositions are famous for rejection of the neo-Romantic form and his creation of a unique American style. He composed a wide variety of music, including piano and orchestral arrangements, ballets, and Hollywood film scores. His compositions for film include “Of Mice and Men” (1939), “Our Town” (1940) and “The Heiress” (1949), which won him an Academy Award for best score. His score for Martha Graham’s ballet “Appalachian Spring” (1944) earned him a Pulitzer Prize.

During the communist witch hunts of the 1950’s, Copland was brought before Congress and questioned about whether he was affiliated with the Communist party. Although he was cleared of charges, Hollywood blacklisted him. His composition “A Lincoln Portrait” was withdrawn as part of the inaugural concert for President Eisenhower.

Copland dedicated the remainder of his life to composing, conducting and teaching. He had a major influence on the style of the next generation of American composers. His protégé, Leonard Bernstein, is considered the best conductor of Copland’s work.

Copland died in Sleepy Hollow, New York. His estate established the Aaron Copland Fund for Composers, which annually bestows over $500,000 in grants.