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George Gershwin, Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein held a special place in 20th century American music, since their compositions elevated popular musical styles into the realm of concert music and their works appealed to a broader audience than the music of most of their peers.
All three grew up in densely populated urban environments - Bernstein was from Boston, Gershwin and Copland came from Brooklyn -- and in separate ways, their music celebrated special aspects of American culture. Gershwin and Bernstein were inspired by successive generations of American jazz and Broadway musical theater. They also drew inspiration from minority cultures in America: Gershwin from African-American life, Bernstein from Jewish traditions. For his part, Copland sought to represent broad aspects of disappearing folk cultures in America: the mountain culture of Appalachia and the open environment of the American West, as well as the lively, colorful musical cultures of neighboring Mexico, Cuba and Latin America.