In his new book George Gershwin: An Intimate Portrait, Walter Rimler writes about how George Gershwin,
"...along with Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, had been elected to honorary membership in the Academy of Santa Cecilia, Rome. George was informed of this in a letter dated February 9, 1937, from composer Alfredo Casella who addressed his as 'Dear Master' and asked for a new piece for September's Venice Fifth International Music Festival."I don't remember hearing about this honour for Villa-Lobos, or a commission for a new work from the Academy. I'll look into the standard references and check this out.
I've often been struck by the similarities between Villa-Lobos and George Gershwin. Both had a special connection to popular music, and both had formative artistic experiences in Paris in the 1920s. Both created a kind of "national style" for their respective countries. But perhaps most importantly, both loved billiards and big cigars.