Aaron Copland meant a lot to a lot of people. So it’s no surprise that when he died in 1990 the preservationists got to work. One of America’s most distinctive composers, Copland wrote ballets, symphonies, movie scores, and jazz. He won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964, the Pulitzer Prize in composition in 1945, an Academy Award for musical score in 1950, and many other honors. His home in Cortlandt Manor, New York, was simple and unspectacular—a prairie-style house with unobtrusive rooms that echoed to the sounds of his piano for 30 years—but it reflected its historically significant resident artist.
When Copland died in 1990, there were plans to sell the house. But a group of local citizens banded together to preserve it as a museum. Incorporated in 1995, the group conducted an effective grassroots fundraising campaign, raising $150,000 to restore the home. Today, it is owned by the town of Cortlandt and leased (virtually for free) to the Copland Heritage Association. Unlike some preserved artist residences, Copland House is not just a shrine. The Aaron Copland Awards, established in 1998, provide fellowships for six to eight emerging composers to live and work in the building, drawing their inspiration from its chambers for months at a time. The house also has a resident repertory ensemble, called Music from Copland House, which has won national acclaim for its performances. Various education programs based at the home also keep community members and enthusiasts entertained and educated. And in 2009, the Copland House and Westchester County established a new creative center for American music, bringing more resident composers to the area to learn and create.
In 2008, the Copland House was designated a National Historic Landmark. It is the only classical-music-related landmark to receive the distinction.
- Copland House, coplandhouse.org
- Howard Pollack, Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man (University of Illinois Press, 2000)