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VIDEOS: Meet LGBT History Month icons Aaron Copland and Alan Cumming

Editor's note: October is LGBT History Month. Each day this month, Equality Forum will feature one LGBT icon who has made notable contributions to society and SDGLN will publish the story in the Causes section.

Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland was a world-renowned composer, teacher, writer and conductor. He was a key figure in forming the early 20th century American style of music and composition.

The youngest of five children, Copland was born Nov. 14, 1900 in Brooklyn to Eastern European Jewish immigrants.

Encouraged by his mother, he became interested in music and his older sister taught him to play the piano. At 16, Copland began lessons with composer Rubin Goldmark, who introduced him to the American style of music.

After graduating high school, Copland played and composed works for dance bands. Inspired by modern European music, he moved to France and attended the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau where he studied under Nadia Boulanger, who was his muse throughout his time in France.

Copland’s compositions are famous for rejection of the neo-Romantic form and his creation of a unique American style. He composed a wide variety of music, including piano and orchestral arrangements, ballets, and Hollywood film scores.

His compositions for film include “Of Mice and Men” (1939), “Our Town” (1940) and “The Heiress” (1949), which won him an Academy Award for best score. His score for Martha Graham’s ballet “Appalachian Spring” (1944) earned him a Pulitzer Prize.

During the communist witch hunts of the 1950’s, Copland was brought before Congress and questioned about whether he was affiliated with the Communist party. Although he was cleared of charges, Hollywood blacklisted him.

His composition “A Lincoln Portrait” was withdrawn as part of the inaugural concert for President Eisenhower.

Copland dedicated the remainder of his life to composing, conducting and teaching. He had a major influence on the style of the next generation of American composers.

His protégé, Leonard Bernstein, is considered the best conductor of Copland’s work.

Copland died on Dec. 2, 1990 in Sleepy Hollow, New York. His estate established the Aaron Copland Fund for Composers, which annually bestows over $500,000 in grants.

Alan Cumming

Alan Cumming is an award-winning film, television and stage actor. He has appeared in more than 100 films and television series, as well as major theatrical productions in London and on Broadway.

Cumming, born Jan. 27, 1965, grew up on the east coast of Scotland, the son of a forester and a secretary.

As a teenager, he began appearing in high school plays and local theater productions. In 1982, he enrolled at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, where he received a B.A. in dramatic studies.

After graduation, Cumming worked in Scottish theater and television before moving to London.

In 1985, he married fellow acting student Hilary Lyon. The couple divorced eight years later.

In London, Cumming performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre. He received two Olivier Awards, including Best Actor in a Musical for playing the Emcee in “Cabaret.” In 1998, he reprised this role on Broadway, receiving a Tony Award for his performance.

Cumming’s many film credits include “Golden Eye,” “Emma,” “Eyes Wide Shut,” “Nicholas Nickleby,” “X2,” and “Burlesque.”

On television, he has appeared on “Frasier,” “The L Word,” “Sex and the City,” Logo’s “Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World,” and on the hit series “The Good Wife” as conniving campaign manager Eli Gold.

In 1998, Entertainment Weekly named Cumming one of the 100 Most Creative People in the World.

In 2008, he received the Trevor Hero Award from The Trevor Project for being “a true role model for gay and questioning youth through his spectacular and highly successful career.”

Cumming and his longtime partner, Grant Shaffer, entered into a civil partnership at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, London. Cumming and Shaffer live in New York City.

For more information about LGBT History Month, click HERE.

Photos: Top left- Aaron Copland; bottom left- Alan Cumming. Credit: Facebook.