Aaron Copland

On this date in 1900, composer Aaron Copland was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., into a Conservative Jewish family of Lithuanian origins. He composed a number of ballets, including “Appalachian Spring,” “Billy the Kid” and “Rodeo,” along with “Fanfare for the Common Man,” “Third Symphony,” chamber music, vocal works, opera and film scores, about 100 works in all.

“To all appearances, and by all accounts, he was what many might call a secular humanist,” wrote Leon Botstein. “He emerged as an adult without an ongoing connection to religion.” (“Copland Reconfigured,” Aaron Copland and His World, 2005, eds. Carol Oja and Judith Tick.) His friend Leonard Bernstein would tease him by saying that he was not a a “real Jew.”

Copland, who was gay, lived and died as a nonbeliever and specified that his funeral service, if any, be “nonreligious.” He died at age 90 in North Tarrytown, N.Y. (D. 1990)

PHOTO: CBS-TV public domain photo of Copland in 1962.

Freedom From Religion Foundation