Leonard Bernstein was born in Lawrence, just north of Boston, on Sunday, August 25, 1918. Bernstein was named Louis at birth, after his mother’s grandfather, but at the age of sixteen he had it formally changed to Leonard, or Lenny.
As a child, Bernstein was sick very often with asthma and hay fever. Perhaps due to these and many other medical conditions, Bernstein preferred to be alone. He didn’t care to spend much time with his family or even with his peers. Most likely because of this self-isolation, Bernstein’s passion for music developed at a young age. At
the age of ten, Leonard’s family received a piano from an aunt who no longer needed it. ...view middle of the document...
He met many influential people throughout the course of this year, including Aaron Copland.
Aaron Copland is regarded as being Bernstein’s composing mentor. In fact, Copland was probably the most important influence on All-American music at this time. Bernstein and Copland had many similarities that may have enabled them to create the very strong bond between them. They both came from Russian/Jewish families; both men were raised in urban areas; both became involved in left wing politics; and both were homosexual. (Later, it was said that Bernstein was bisexual and he did marry and have a typical heterosexual relationship.) The relationship began with Bernstein’s great admiration of Copland and from there they formed life long tie
In 1939, Bernstein began to attend the Curtis Institute for Music in Philadelphia, which was a school for both composers and those who wanted a career in performance arts. This is where the finishing touches were put on Bernstein’s training. He began to develop very close relationships with many of his instructors, which would later serve as contacts in the world of music. The first time that Bernstein conducted was at the end of his first year at Curtis when he led the Curtis Orchestra in Wagner’s Tannauser. His joy was obvious to all that saw him in action and he then knew for sure that he would receive great pleasure from performing.
From that moment on the hopes and dreams that Bernstein had as a boy began to become reality. He had many great success stories over his career, but there are two that he is most known for to all people, not just those involved heavily in the music world. They are his role as director of the New York Philharmonic and the production West Side Story.
West Side Story was an idea by Jerome Robbins of a modern, New York style, version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Arthur Laurents wrote the script, Bernstein was the composer and Stephen Sondheim was the lyrist. This tragic comedy premiered in August 1957. Apparently, this was another one of...