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Ferde Grofé Audio Collection

Collection Overview

  • 144 audio reels
  • 47 cassettes


Ferdinand (Ferde) Grofé (1892-1972) was an American born composer/arranger that came from four generations of classical musicians. Following his father’s death (1899), Ferde’s mother took him abroad to study piano, viola, and composition in Leipzig. Ferde quickly became proficient over a range of instruments including piano, violin, viola, baritone horn, alto horn, and cornet. In the course of a varied career he served as arranger for a jazz orchestra, violinist for the Los Angeles Symphony, conductor, and teacher of orchestration at the Julliard School of Music.

Grofé left home at the age of 14 and worked as a milkman, truck driver, newsboy, elevator operator, iron factory worker, and a pianist in a saloon. These experiences greatly affected his future musical output. Following his first commissioned composition, at the age of 17, he was the arranger for Paul Whiteman’s jazz band. This connection led to one of his most famous arrangements when Grofé orchestrated George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue for its historic 1924 premiere.

As a composer, Grofé’s most memorable work is his Grand Canyon Suite. Whiteman premiered the work in 1931; however, Grofé rescored it for full orchestra (1934), and it was this revised version that made a lasting impression on the public. The Grand Canyon Suite was the first piece of American music conducted by Arturo Toscanini.

The Ferde Grofé Audio Collection contains 144 reel-to-reel audio recordings and 47 cassette tape recordings. Many of these recordings are live performances that range from 1936-1968.