Born in the Bronx, William Schuman (1910-1992) dropped out of business school to pursue composition after hearing the New York Philharmonic for the first time. He became a central figure in New York’s cultural institutions, leaving his presidency of the Juilliard School to become the first director of Lincoln Center in 1962. All the while he was active as a composer. He received the inaugural Pulitzer Prize for music in 1943. He shared a fondness for wind music with his Juilliard contemporaries Vincent Persichetti and Peter Mennin, from which came many classic works for wind band.
Schuman wrote George Washington Bridge in 1950. It was premiered that summer at the Interlochen Music Camp in Michigan. From the score:
There are few days in the year when I do not see George Washington Bridge. I pass it on my way to work as I drive along the Henry Hudson Parkway on the New York shore. Ever since my student days when I watched the progress of its construction, this bridge has had for me an almost human personality, and this personality is astonishingly varied, assuming different moods depending on the time of day or night, the weather, the traffic and, of course, my own mood as I pass by.
I have walked across it late at night when it was shrouded in fog, and during the brilliant sunshine hours of midday. I have driven over it countless times and passed under it on boats. Coming to New York City by air, sometimes I have been lucky enough to fly right over it. It is difficult to imagine a more gracious welcome or dramatic entry to the great metropolis.
The Cincinnati Wind Symphony performs the piece:
The bridge itself is an iconic monument connecting New York City to Fort Lee, New Jersey. For some facts about it, visit this website, run by the town of Fort Lee.
Read more on George Washington Bridge the piece at Music Sales Classical, WQXR, and the University of Maryland Wind Orchestra blog. Schuman has bios on Wikipedia, his own official website, G. Schirmer, Theodore Presser, and Naxos.