Composer Ferde Grofe, the Prince Minister of Jazz, was born Ferdinand Rudolph von Grofe (pronounced grow-fay) on March 27, 1892 in New York City. While still a child, Grofes family moved to Los Angeles, California. His father was an actor and baritone singer while his mother was a cellist and music instructor.
Growing up in Los Angeles, Grofe attended public schools and studied with several music instructors, first his mother and then Pietro Floridia and Ricardo Dallera. He attended St. Vincents College under family pressure to study law but in 1908, he found work as a violinist at convention halls and as a pianist and arranger for various with dance bands.
In 1909, he produced his first commissioned work, The Elks Grand Reunion March, for the Elks Convention in Los Angeles. This same year, Grofe was hired by the Los Angeles Symphony as a violist, a position he maintained for 10 years. While with the symphony, Grofe continued to compose his own works and formed his own jazz ensemble. In 1923, playing in local clubs around Los Angeles, he met the famed jazz conductor Paul Whiteman who hired him as pianist and arranger for his orchestra. Whiteman instantly had a hit recording with a song composed by Grofe with lyrics by Theodora Morse, Wonderful One.
The following year, Grofe came into national recognition with his arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue, a commissioned work by George Gershwin (submitted as a piano score to which Grofe added the orchestrations). The symphony that would catapult Gershwin, Whiteman and Grofe to fame, premiered on February 12, 1924 at New Yorks Aeolian Hall.