Leonard Bernstein: Beyond the Musical
Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) was a celebrated musician,
composer, author, and conductor that brought a new credibility
to American classical music. He was also an educator
that believed that music and the arts were essential subjects
in the education system. He dedicated much of his life inspiring
others with his love of music through his lectures, books, and
highly acclaimed TV series.
A son of immigrant parents, Bernstein was encouraged to seek out a more stable profession than music. However, Bernstein's childhood interest in the piano could not be diverted. He discovered the piano at ten, and was determined to learn all he could. Since his father refused to pay for piano lessons, Bernstein worked and saved money for his own lessons. His determination and natural ability impressed his instructor, and eventually his father as well. He went on, with his parents' support, to continue his music studies at Harvard University and at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
He got his first big break by accident. While working at the New York Philharmonic, a guest conductor cancelled at the last minute, so Bernstein had to fi ll in. His energy and skill used in conducting a diffi cult piece with such little time for preparation impressed the audience -- and the media.
Leonard's musical life continued to grow, taking him on several international tours during the 1950s. He also began composing. Of his many popular efforts, On the Waterfront (1954), Candide (1956), and West Side Story (1957) are the best known. He also found a love for teaching.
Aside from his music ambitions, Bernstein lectured at Harvard and other Universities. He also wanted to introduce classical music to people who may not be able to attend Harvard or go to symphonies. He created accessible performances for the average American family by developing a television series that would go on to instill a love for classical music in children and adults. His award-winning television series "Omnibus" and "Young People's Concerts" allowed him to inspire a whole new audience of music lovers.
He received many awards from around the world throughout his career -- from musical, to education, to humanitarian. He received 16 Grammys, numerous honorary degrees, Tony awards and more. He received a lifetime achievement award from the Japan Arts Association and used the winnings from this award to start a foundation to continue his legacy of inspiring future musicians and to keep music and the arts in schools. He spoke in an interview about what he hoped it would achieve, "...besides the obvious attempts to get music and kids together, there will be the overriding goal of teaching teachers to discover their own love of learning."
Unfortunately, The Academy for the Love of Learning was not completed until after his death, however, it continues to promote Bernstein's dream of integrated arts and music in education.
Bernstein was a prolifi c musician and he urged others to do the same by incorporating music into learning and education.