Emigrating from Russia as a boy with his family, Berlin took a job at sixteen as a singing waiter and began composing songs. One of America’s greatest songwriters, his compositions include “God Bless America,” “Alexander’s Rag Time Band,” “White Christmas,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” “Easter Parade,” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”
During the Jazz Age, the Castles traveled the world demonstrating a new way to dance. The Fox Trot, Castle Walk and other syncopated dances became all the rage as they set the style for a new century. Orchestra leader James Reese Europe often provided the music for the famous dance team as they swirled to the tunes of W.C. Handy and other great composers.
Cohan started his career as a child in Vaudeville and went on to become a leader on the American musical comedy stage. He was a writer, composer, performer, producer and theater owner, eventually dubbed “the man who owned Broadway.” His songs included “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “Over There,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “Harrigan.”
The “Queen of Salsa” was born in Cuba, but left her native land in 1959 following its takeover by Fidel Castro. For over fifty years, Cruz performed with several celebrated bands. Her most enduring performances were with “El Maestro,” the legendary Tito Puente. The Grammy winning artist was also known for her flashy stage costumes, colorful wigs and signature line, “Azucaaar!”
Playing an influential role in the founding of the New York Philharmonic, Damrosch led the orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera House. He is also credited with bringing German opera to New York. Dr. Damrosch is at rest in a plot purchased by the Oratorio, Arion and the New York Symphony Society. In a public ceremony, the contributing organizations placed a statue of Minerva there designed by Helbig of Dresden.
Herbert was the most successful and acclaimed writer of light opera. His productions include Babes in Toyland, Kiss Me Again and Naughty Marietta. “March of the Toys” is among his most familiar melodies. He was one of the organizers of ASCAP, which he founded after hearing his music played in restaurants without receiving any royalties.
ALEXANDER (1844-1896) AND ADELAIDE HERRMANN (1854-1932)
Billed as “Herrmann the Great,” Alexander became famous with the “Floating Boy” trick in his early years. He was not a mystical magician–through his humorous performances, he often debunked his own tricks. His wife was known as “The Queen of Magic,” and continued to tour as a lead act following her husband’s death.
FRITZ KREISLER (1875-1962)
Known as the “violinist’s violinist,” Kreisler began his career at age thirteen and was considered a child genius. He played to packed crowds all over the world and composed numerous works that received critical acclaim.
The “Blackbird of Harlem” was considered the first black female star to win international acclaim. She was a dancer, singer and a major performer at the height of the Harlem Renaissance. Duke Ellington wrote his classic “Black Beauty” as a tribute to her.
Pappalardi began his career in rock music as the bassist for the group Mountain, best known for their hit “Mississippi Queen.” He later went on to produce the rock band Cream and co-wrote “Strange Brew” with Eric Clapton.
As a teenager, Laurette Cooney made her stage debut in Vaudeville. After appearing in a number of J. Hartley Manners’s plays, she made theatrical history in Peg o’ My Heart, which Manners wrote for her as a betrothal present. She triumphed as Amanda Wingfield in the original production of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.