Orin Grossman
Book Speaker
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Orin Grossman

Fee Range1: $ 2500 - $5000

Interpreter and Performer of Great American and European Music


American LegendsArts/Culture/MusicMusical Program




Orin Grossman

Orin GrossmanInterpreter and Performer of Great American and European Music

Orin Grossman has been delighting audiences the world over with his unique approach to performing and explaining great American and European music. As a performer he is in demand as an interpreter of the music of George Gershwin, playing his songs and classical compositions around the world, including Florence Italy, Cairo Egypt, Australia, and St Petersburg, Russia, where he performed Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and gave the Russian premiere of Gershwin’s Second Rhapsody with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic to a standing ovation. A superb lecturer, he has developed a series of presentations combining performance and discussion.

Dr. Grossman began piano and theory instruction at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts at the age of five. After several graduate recitals there, he entered Harvard College from which he graduated Magna cum Laude in Music.  He continued his studies at Yale University, earning a Ph.D. in Music.  Dr. Grossman came to Fairfield University in 1975 as an Assistant Professor of Fine Arts.  In 1991 he was named Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. After ten years as the Academic Vice President at Fairfield University, he returned to the faculty in the fall of 2009 as Professor of Visual and Performing Arts.

After his New York Carnegie Hall debut recital, he performed a series of innovative New York recitals combining jazz, popular, and classical music. Over the years he has developed a unique ability to combine discussion and performance in his presentations.  He is a frequent star professor for “One Day University”, a premiere lecture organization, giving talks in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Boston and other locales including Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony.

Dr. Grossman has the following program choices:

George Gershwin’s American Masterpiece: Rhapsody in Blue

George Gershwin (1898-1937) was a true rarity in American music—someone at home both in popular and classical, or concert, music.  It was Gershwin’s special contribution to create concert works out of melodies and rhythms that come out of the popular music of his day— Broadway ballads, ragtime, Latin dance rhythms, and the Blues.  This lecture will demonstrate just how this process works in his first and perhaps most popular concert work, Rhapsody in Blue.   By understanding the musical sources of this most beloved of American concert pieces, we gain insight into the multicultural nature of American musical traditions, and into the compositional genius of one of our greatest composers. The lecture will conclude with a performance of Gershwin’s great masterpiece, Rhapsody in Blue. 


George Gershwin and the Great American Songbook

The 1920’s saw the establishment of a new American spirit on Broadway. Inspired by Jerome Kern’s Princess Theatre shows of the late teens, a new, young group of composers and lyricists threw off the European trappings of former shows and created the American Musical.  Brassy and irreverent, these shows featured such composers and lyricists as Rogers and Hart, Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and, of course, George and Ira Gershwin.  This lecture concentrates on the songs and lyrics of George and Ira Gershwin from the 1920’s—songs that remain part of our living heritage. His songs will be performed in Gershwin’s own piano arrangements—arrangements Gershwin created to give the public a sense of how he played his own songs at private parties. 


George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess: The Great American Opera

Porgy and Bess was George Gershwin’s greatest labor of love and his most controversial masterpiece.  Conceived as an opera, it opened on Broadway in 1935 to tepid and confused reviews.  It was attacked on all sides for its racial themes, its dark plot, the use of operatic devices such as recitative, and its length.  Yet the opera contains Gershwin’s greatest music, some of which is familiar to everyone.  “Summertime”, “Bess, You is my Woman Now” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So” are among the most familiar and beautiful of Gershwin’s career.  The story of the crippled beggar Porgy and his love for Bess has been revised, and occasionally updated to make the opera more attractive to modern tastes, but the music remains among the greatest American music ever written.  This presentation explores the story of Porgy and Bess and the fascinating history of its life on the stage. The presentation will conclude with a performance of the beloved songs from Porgy and Bess in a special arrangement by the great American pianist, Earl Wild. 


Jewish Americans and the Great American Songbook

The contribution of American Jews to American music has long been recognized. Jews dominated the Broadway and Hollywood musical scene during the creation of what has often been called “The American Song Book” or simply “the Standards”. From 1920 to 1960, hardly a great musical came about that was not written by Jewish Americans. (The great exception, Cole Porter, always credited his success to his ability to write “Jewish music”). From George Gershwin to Irving Berlin; from Harold Arlen to Richard Rodgers—the names read like a roster of the greatest American songwriters. Equally important, the composers who wrote successful classical music with an American feel—Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin—were also Jewish. The age of rock ended Jewish dominance, but there are still major contributions including Bob Dylan, Carole King and Paul Simon.

But is all of the above merely interesting cultural trivia, or might there be some under-lying factors at play? In other words, did these artists’ Jewishness impact on their art or prodigious talent in any significant way – and, if so, how?   As poet and critic David Lehman writes, in Poet In A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs, “Sooner or later you have to explain what is Jewish about American popular song – apart from the simple fact that a great many of the songwriters were Jews.” This presentation will explore this phenomenon with both recorded examples and performed examples of these great standards. This presentation concludes with performances of beloved songs by George Gershwin and Richard Rodgers. 


Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland, a Friendship in Music

Leonard Bernstein met Aaron Copland in 1937. Bernstein was 19, beginning his junior year at Harvard College.  Aaron Copland was an established composer of 37, living in New York City.  He had not yet composed the works for which he is most famous today—the series of ballets Appalachian Spring, Rodeo, and Billy the Kid—but he was a leader of the new young composers group based in New York City.  Their meeting initiated a fifty-year friendship in which the older composer served as father-figure, composition teacher, mentor and friend.  This lecture traces the course of this influential friendship and features a performance of a striking example of their early collaboration—Leonard Bernstein’s piano arrangement of Aaron Copland’s first great orchestral composition in his popular style—El Salon Mexico. 


The Piano: From Household Instrument to the Concert Stage

The modern piano became a major solo concert instrument in the 1830’s because of advances in piano construction and the extraordinary invention of the modern piano technique by two friends and occasional rivals—Franz Liszt and Frederic Chopin. Liszt was the extrovert who enjoyed publicity and became the most famous touring virtuoso pianist of his day. Chopin, the introvert, concentrated on his compositions and performed them often in private recitals. This presentation will trace the invention of the piano and piano technique concentrating on Chopin’s musical gifts, and the nature of the pianistic revolution they created. The presentation will conclude with a performance of Chopin’s Ballade#1 in G Minor, among his greatest compositions.


The March and the Waltz—two popular styles in Europe and America 

Who does not like a stirring march or a lilting waltz? Both musical styles have been popular on both sides of the Atlantic although with interesting differences. Marches and waltzes exist both as popular forms and as musical styles used by the great European composers as well. In the United States, the marches of John Philip Sousa are particularly admired, and the March style also contributed strongly to the first great American popular style, ragtime. Although we think of the waltz as a European dance, it actually has a strong presence in American popular music, from country music (for example, the “Tennessee Waltz”) to the great songs of Richard Rodgers (“Oh, What a Beautiful Morning”; “Wait ‘Til You See He”). This presentation discusses the many uses these popular forms have served and includes a performance of a number of marches, rags, and waltzes from both sides of the Atlantic, including the great Carousel Waltz by Richard Rodgers.  


Three Musical Masterpieces That Every Music Lover Should Listen To

Ezra Pound famously wrote, Literature is news that stays news. We might say the same for the great masterpieces of music. There are works from the great composers who speak to us with the freshness and excitement of anything seemingly more contemporary and relevant.  As long as we bring an open mind, or open ears, we can discover beauty, meaning, and emotional depth undimmed by the passage of time.

In this class, Professor Grossman will present three musical works from the same period by musicians young and old at the peak of their composing careers. All three share the excitement of ushering in or extending a new musical era. And yet these compositions could not be more different than if they had been written hundreds of years apart. Individually they each speak to us about the power of musical expression; together they illustrate how many ways music can excite the imagination. The three compositions are 1)  Ludwig van Beethoven, Fifth Symphony  2) Frederic Chopin, Ballade #1 for Piano; 3) Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin, which will be performed in its entirety.

To book this speaker please visit www.cassidyandfishman.com or call 508.485.8996