When Ed Koch Met Aaron Copland

Friday, February 01, 2013 - 11:00 AM

In 1978, mayor Edward I. Koch invited Aaron Copland to Gracie Mansion after hearing that the composer had never been there. "But you were born in Brooklyn and are one of our great composers," Koch exclaimed. "I am shocked!"

Copland, it seems, was a composer with whom the former New York mayor — who died Friday morning at age 88 — took a particular interest.

The brief story is recounted in Howard Pollack's biography, Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man.

Koch invited Copland back to Gracie Mansion in November, 1983 to award him with the New York City Seal of Recognition, an honorary award the mayor instituted in 1980 to recognize outstanding individuals in all fields.

The invitation-only event featured a performance of Copland's chamber music (by artists including flutist Paula Robison and pianist Charles Wadsworth) as well as remarks by Koch.

"We honor Aaron Copland tonight not only because he is one of the most recognized composers of the century, but also because he is 'our own' – a man who is not only an American composer but the American composer," he said, according to a New York Times report.

In his remarks, the mayor had complimentary words for WQXR's sister station WNYC, which was broadcasting the event. He called it a "cultural treasure," and praised what he called its innovative programming of contemporary music.

Koch was never known for his advocacy of the performing arts, but he was a frequent presence at the New York Philharmonic, said Barbara Haws, the orchestra's archivist. The mayor frequently turned up at parks concerts, opening night galas and Radiothons with WQXR. The orchestra's digital archives include photos of him meeting with musicians and conductors including Leonard Bernstein, Edo de Waart and Zubin Mehta.


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Comments [6]

I remember him when he was first ran for mayor. He was more than willing to talk to you.
I also remember watching Mr. Copland on our TV in BW. Both of them are missed dearly.

Feb. 08 2013 07:55 PM

Interesting, Copeland and Koch in Gracie Mansion, two closeted gay men, one much more so, but both real and successful American characters who affected the lives of millions. Oh, to be a fly on the wall!
Wish Bloomberg was so democratic and understanding of the middle and working classes instead of married to the real estate lobby and other parasitical would-be big shots. I remember Ed Koch at numerous Chinese restaurants and advocating public demonstrations at the rising cost of movies! My Grandmother called him Ed Koch, the New Yorker who is a corker!

Feb. 02 2013 02:54 PM

I saw Mayor Koch several weeks ago in midtown. He seemed very frail and it seemed like he was looking for a cab. I asked if I could help. He responded that he was waiting for his car, but he thanked me for my offer of help.

A true gentleman.


Feb. 02 2013 02:16 AM
Peg Roberts from Mt. Tabor, NJ

I remember seeing Koch on Saturday Night Live! I think there was some crazy stuff with Belushi and others. Koch was awesome!

Feb. 01 2013 07:08 PM
Daniel Rosemarin from Manhattan

I remember running into Ed Koch twice in the past few years. Once was at the Quad Cinema and the other time was at Cittarella, both in the Village. At the Citaralla, we were both waiting at the busy meat counter on a late afternoon. While we waited, the X-Mayor asked me if I could identify the cut of beef he had his eye on, which was ironic as I am not a red meat eater. Still, it was kind of cool to be having this kind of casual, friendly, fellow shopper type conversation with Mr. Koch. He will be missed.

Feb. 01 2013 06:11 PM
Wilda Maymi from spring Hill , Florida

I remember seeing my ex mayor Ed Koch walking in my neighborhood visiting a friend and he was wearing flippers, He one person that live his life and did it well, he will be miss. I hope whoever mades a movie of his life will call it Ed Mayor How am I doing? but now that he is in Heaven , he ask God how did I do, God answer him You did well ? 88 years is a blessing . He look strong and wiser course he live his life with grace. R.I.P

Feb. 01 2013 12:59 PM

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