Leonard Bernstein Essay

1473 words - 6 pages

LEONARD BERNSTEINLeonard Bernstein was born in Lawrenceville, Massachusettes on August 25, 1918. He was the first born child of Samuel and Jennie Bernstein, who lived in Boston, but had gone to Lawrenceville to visit some relatives.Bernstein's parents had little knowledge of, or interest in classical music. The only records Leonard remembers hearing on his family phonograph when he was a child were the popular hit songs of the day, such as "Barney Google" and "Oh by Jingo."For the most part, Leonard Bernstein was an unhappy child. He said, "I was a miserable, terrified little child" (Musicians p.64). His family moved from town to town, during Bernstein's school days, not giving him a chance ...view middle of the document...

But that teacher soon moved away and Leonard found himself paying another piano teacher three dollars a lesson out of his allowance. After more than a year of piano lessons that just weren't teaching him much, Leonard found a new, and this time excellent piano teacher named Helen Coates. She was sensitive to Leonard's shyness and knew what it took to teach him. She had him study symphonies and operas from the printed page and encouraged him to compose. She also encouraged him to go to concerts. After watching Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring and Prokofiev's Classical Symphony, he became aware not only of symphonic music, but specifically of twentieth century music. Until then, he never realized that music had a future. He had always thought of it as something that had already been written. Bernsteins desire for music became greater and greater. He began attending the public concerts of the Boston Symphony."'He was frighteningly gifted,' Miss Coates recalled in later years. 'He could read, sing and memorize anything. He absorbed in one lesson an arrangement that took most of my pupils five or six lessons to learn.'"1As an eleven year old, he entered The Boston Latin School and graduated with honors in 1935. He was anoutstanding student- in the top ten percent of his class, butdidn't seem to exist without music. It was, by now, a part of him.Soon, after he turned thirteen, he and his dad went on a cruise through the Panama Canal. He entertained everyone on the cruise with his piano playing. Everyone loved him so much that the ship's director offered him a permanent job with the ships staff.Music really changed Leonard's shy personality for the better, along with his poor health.From Boston Latin School Bernstein went on to Harvard College. He wrote for and performed in college productions, played the piano for the glee club and provided the background music for silent motion pictures.In 1939 Bernstein graduated from Harvard with the degree of Bachelor of Arts and a cum laude in music. By this time Dimitri Mitropoulos, the director, had become interested in him. He encouraged Bernstein to join him at the Boston Symphony's rehearsals. He also encouraged him to consider becoming a conductor. Bernstein felt he must get away from his fathers persistent nagging to join his business, so he left home and found a place for himself in music in New York City.Bernstein attended the Curtis Institute for two years, where his main interest was in conducting. For the summers of 1940 and 1941 he studied at Tanglewood with Koussevitzky. It only took those two summers for Koussevitzky to become impressed enough to want to have Bernstein as his assistant. In 1942 he was invited by Rodzinski to act as assistant conductor of the New York PO. November 13, 1944 was the day that Bernsteins career skyrocketed. The Sunday afternoon concert of the New York Philharmonic, which was broadcast on a national hookup of the Columbia Broadcasting System, was to be conducted by Bruno...

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