If you have not yet listened to Bernstein speak about music, I would highly recommend that you watch the provided clip!
“Every child has the natural ability and desire to assimilate musical ideas and comprehend their combinations into musical forms. Every child can be taught to read music as he or she is taught to read words; and there is no reason why both kinds of reading cannot be taught simultaneously.” These were Leonard Bernstein’s words when he spoke to the House Subcommittee on Select Education in 1977. He was called to testify about music and arts education in relation to a bill for a White House Conference for the Arts.
Leonard Bernstein was the consummate American musician. He was a conductor of highest esteem, a towering composer, and a brilliant pianist. He was also one of the greatest music educators of our time. When he looked back on his tenure as Music Director for the New York Philharmonic, he referred to his Young People’s Concerts as being “among my favorite, most highly prized activities of my life.” The concerts helped fulfill his “educational mission”: introducing young people to classical music.
Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts ran on CBS for a remarkable fourteen seasons between 1958 to 1972. They were initially broadcast on Saturday mornings; however, the programs were so popular and were considered so important that for three years, CBS presented them at 7:30 P.M. as part of their primetime schedule. Eventually, the programs were moved to Sunday afternoons. The concerts were translated into other languages and syndicated to forty countries. Essentially, these concerts introduced an entire generation to classical music.
Bernstein was a natural educator. He was disarming, engaging, and never condescended to his young audiences. He wrote every script himself, totaling 53! And although the concert hall is mostly comprised of young people, their parents and grandparents hung onto his every word. He covered subjects as diverse as “What is Melody” to “Farewell Nationalism.” Even the most consummate musician learns many new things by listening to his voluminous knowledge of music, art, and the world.
This was his final Young People’s Concert, which features The Planets by Gustav Holst. I’ve included this video in my playlists because, yes, I love the piece of music. But far beyond that, Bernstein was the most important educator in my life. I learned from his lectures on record, books, and shows like this. I have never stopped learning from him, and I am positive that this will always be true.
Happy watching and listening!