On Saturday, August 25th, the world celebrated Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday.
Every major publication featured Leonard Bernstein last weekend — from The New York Times to The Los Angeles Times to NPR.
Even Google got involved with a Google Doodle celebrating the American maestro, born in Massachusetts to immigrants in 1918.
Bernstein started as a pianist at the age of 10, and made his career as a conductor, a composer, and an educator, becoming a national TV star through his charismatic communication.
He was a father to three children, a husband, a lover, and beloved friend. He was also a humanitarian, who infused his music with a sense of urgency for peace in the world.
So, what makes this many-faceted musician so special?
Leonard Bernstein was THE great communicator: he embodied music, with every wrinkling eye (that was to the violas) and every hand gesture (timpani, now!). He described classical music with stories and rock music — explaining terms like “orchestration” side by side common language and daily experience (if you haven’t seen the videos where he compares composing for 100 instruments with getting dressed in the morning, or composing a fugue to building a ferris wheel, you should).
He was a complete musician, full of magical charisma, who demanded (and craved) attention. He communicated most everything — even mishaps — with grace and joy.
May we all recover from our mishaps with as much grace and sass as Bernstein. pic.twitter.com/vIVjWTlSGi
— BBC Music Magazine (@MusicMagazine) August 28, 2018
Since the Bernstein Centennial launch last Fall, every major orchestra, opera house, and performing arts group has or will be performing his works — more than 3,000 from August 2017 through August 2019. Hundreds of people have talked about the impact of his music on their lives.
No one has ever excited audiences from the podium (perhaps, for some, exasperated?) like Bernstein.
"As for my unrestrained podium comportment…the one and only purpose my gestures serve is a musical one…I approach what I play not from a conductor’s point of view, but from a composer’s point of view." -LB#Bernsteinat100 #ClassicalMusic 📸@NYPhilArchive pic.twitter.com/vfAYUnHR2e
— Leonard Bernstein (@LennyBernstein) August 30, 2018
Lenny’s Virtual Birthday Card
The Lenny love is bubbling onto social media as well. Fans across the globe took to Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms to wish the maestro a happy birthday in droves; “Leonard Bernstein” was even a trending topic on Twitter in the United States that day.
(Can you imagine if Lenny were alive to tweet? Emojis, anyone?)
The Bernstein Experience on Classical.org will continue to curate key moments and memories, complete with our 24/7 stream of his best compositions and performances and exclusive content only available here. (Look for examples of Lenny’s writings, including selected poems and letters, every Thursday this Fall!)
And, if you haven’t yet subscribed to our newsletter, be sure to sign up here.
Happy Birthday, Lenny. Thank you for communicating incessentantly, and brilliantly, and for believing in the power of music to change our world.
Thank you for everything.
*It is unclear who coined “the great communicator” to describe Bernstein. Notable references include: Rebecca Paller (Paley Center for the Media), Mena Mark Hanna (Huffington Post), and Michael de Sapio (ArtsEditor).
Why do YOU love Lenny?
Submit your memories to LeonardBernstein.com, and add your comments to Lenny’s Birthday Card on Facebook or Twitter.
(Post updated, August 31, 2018)