Leonard Bernstein was born on August 25, 1918 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Hes family emigrated to the United States. They were Russian Jews. As a young child, Leonard learned to play the piano and he attended Harvard University. He attended courses and lectures held by Edward Burlingham Hill, Water Piston, and Arthur Tillmann Merritt. He received his diploma in 1939. He studied under Isabella Vengerova, a talented piano player at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, Fritz Reiner, an orchestral conductor, and Randall Thompson for orchestration.
Bernstein specialized in orchestral conducting and went to Tanglewood from 1940-1941. He became a pupil of Sergei A. Koussevitzky, and became his assistant in 1942. He was appointed, only one year later, by Artur Rodzinski as the assistant director of music at the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. After he stepped in for Bruno Walter, who became ill, and he conducted a concert of this great orchestra. After this he worked with the New York City Orchestra. In 1947 he conducted the Isreal Philharmonic Orchestra, for which he was he musical advisor until 1949.
After this, he went on a long tour with Koussevitzky. After Koussevitzkys death, Bernstein taught orchestral conducting at Tanglewood, and also worked at Brandeis University. In 1957, he joined the New York Philharmonic, which he conducted alternately with Dimitri Mitropoulos. From 1958-1969, he was the musical director of this orchestra before he was appointed laureate conductor for life. He was the first American conductor to be invited to the Scala, and he conducted there.
From 1969 on, Bernstein received invitations from all the major establishments and orchestras of the world. He cooperated with the Viennese Philharmonic, which he recorded the complete symphonies of Beethoven, and also recorded his own three symphonies with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestral. His best performances were with works by Gustav Mahler, George Gershwin, and Igor Stravinsky. He was very receptive to modern music, and continued the work of Koussevitzky, and strongly supported American composers. Leonards enthusiasm quickly made him very popular.
He found a new and very successful way to present classical music on television and to win new audiences for it. Tours, teaching and concerts were unable to crowd out two areas which he had dedicated himself to from his youth, piano and composition. Starting from the beginning, he wrote for the stage, not the concert hall. He wrote the song cycles, I hate music, Good Cooking and a ballet called Fancy free. He eventually developed Fancy free into a musica. He called t On The Town, and made it a hit on Broadway.
He wrote a mass for the dedication of the John F. Kennedy Center in New York in 1971. Bernstein was influenced by different styles. Some of them included: jazz, folk music, religious choral themes, songs and ballads. He wrote a very famous musical called West Side Story. West Side Story showed the public how easily he could work with rhythm and melody. He wrote another musical called Candide in 1956. Bernstein passed away on October 14th, 1990. He may be gone now but his achievements will forever live on.