Bernstein Today

Sarasota Loves Lenny

From bone-chilling Philadelphia to balmy Sarasota, Florida… in our dreams, right? No, for real! Swimming and oysters on Turtle Beach!

SILL (Saratoga Institute of Lifetime Learning) invited us for informal “chats” on one of its Music Mondays. These chats, as we discovered, take place in local churches – one in Sarasota proper, and the other in Venice, a few miles south on the Tamiami trail.

Previous SILL Music Mondays have featured Sherrill Milnes, John DeMain, and Ricky Ian Gordon. They are curated by the marvelous Edward Alley, formerly of the New York Philharmonic administration.

Sarasota’s highly educated, culture-thirsty winter population relies on Ed’s stimulating programs.

We were advised to arrive at the first church at 10 AM, our talk beginning at 10:30. Owing to Alexander’s impeccable punctuality, we were actually early at 9:45. And even then, we saw that people had come far earlier to take their places. When every pew had filled, other chairs were brought in until the unprecedented crowd had been seated.

What on earth?

Well. It turned out that Sarasota’s highly educated, culture-thirsty winter population is, not too surprisingly, in love with Leonard Bernstein.

If you do the math, it makes sense! If you’re in your eighties right now, you were in your late fifties or early sixties when my father died. Which means: you likely watched the Young People’s Concerts with your kids; went to his concerts; and bought his records… We get it.

(Left to right): SILL Music Mondays coordinator and morning host Edward Alley; Jamie Bernstein; Alexander Bernstein; Nina Bernstein Simmons; Joe Holt; Bob Sherman; and Jill Bloom attend the Leonard Bernstein tribute in Sarasota, Florida.
(Left to right): SILL Music Mondays coordinator and morning host Edward Alley; Jamie Bernstein; Alexander Bernstein; Nina Bernstein Simmons; Joe Holt; Bob Sherman; and Jill Bloom attend the Leonard Bernstein tribute in Sarasota, Florida.

Numerous people came up to us after our talk. One woman brought a photo album in which were pictures of her relatives Harold Gomberg and Ralph Gomberg (principal oboists of the New York Philharmonic and Boston Symphony Orchestra, respectively). Another gentleman, now in a wheelchair, had been in the Tanglewood student orchestra and brought pictures he had taken of LB in rehearsal action.

The most moving experience of the day was talking with Adrienne Silverstein and Amy Greene.

Joseph Silverstein, was the concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 29 years. We lost him in 2015. I was lucky enough to get to know the family while working as a Tanglewood guide over the summers of 1978 and 1979. Their daughter, Deborah, and I became great friends as co-workers. She would invite me to descend on the Silverstein refrigerator after work where Adrienne would always have provided revivifying foods in her stacking “white bowls”.

God bless Saint Adrienne — who, incidentally, never looked so beautiful.

Amy Greene: fashion model, wife of photographer Milton Greene, and one of my mother’s best friends.

Amy, born in Cuba, and Felicia Montealegre Bernstein, born in Costa Rica and raised in Chile, became fast friends when they met in New York in the 50’s. As Amy recalled to me, they used to sit at events and comment (probably snarkily) on other people’s clothing and behavior in Spanish. Snobs they may have been, but of the most appealing kind.

In our parents’ absence, Amy has remained a steadfast friend and one to whom we cling.

I am grateful for these moments of reconnecting with cherished fans, friends, and extended family.

About this author

Nina Bernstein Simmons is Leonard Bernstein’s youngest daughter. After working as an actress, initially at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, she turned her attention to tending her late father’s legacy. In the earliest days of the internet, she worked with the Library of Congress to make the Bernstein Archives digitally available to the public. From 2000 to 2005, Nina worked on “Leonard Bernstein: A Total Embrace,” a film about her sister, Jamie, and her remarkable journeys around the world bringing Bernstein’s music and teaching legacy to new audiences. Since 2008, Nina has been working as a food educator in underserved communities.

About this content

Jamie, Alexander, and Nina are taking you around the globe, celebrating their father’s legacy with you and adoring fans at thousands of Bernstein Centennial events. Read more travel blogging in Bernstein Today.

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