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Leonard Bernstein's 100th Birthday: Where To Get Your Bernstein Fix

August 25, 2018, is the centennial of Leonard Bernstein's birthday and the entire world is celebrating! In fact, the world has officially been celebrating this cultural giant's 100th birthday since August 25, 2017, and the global festivities are scheduled to continue through August 25, 2019. That’s right. It takes two full years to celebrate Bernstein’s 100th birthday with the full honors the legendary composer, conductor, pianist, and teacher is due. 

Take this opportunity to reconnect with this musical master, or if you’re not yet familiar with him – make this the time you learn about why he was so great. Not sure how to celebrate Leonard Bernstein?  Here you go… 

Attend a concert on August 25, 2018,

such as Tanglewood’s “The Bernstein Centennial Celebration.” Check out these other popular summer festival venues to see what they have planned for the special day itself. Rest assured, special concerts are being performed on this date the world over, from Austria to Australia. If you can’t make a concert in person on this date, see if you can access the BBC’s “Bernstein on the Town” live concert broadcast. 

Attend a concert honoring Bernstein another night.

So, you can’t make a concert on the centennial itself? No worries, not all is lost. As we said, official festivities will continue for another year. Other exciting events you can attend or watch in the coming months include: 

  • The Tanglewood concert will be recorded for PBS stations across the United States on December 28, 2018.
  • August 26, 2018: Theater Source LA presents “Leonard Bernstein at 100,” in Los Angeles.
  • Find a performance of West Side Story or even a sing-along event like this one in Maryland or a song-fest in November from the College Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati.
  • The Utah Symphony is running a Bernstein on Broadway” program in September.
  • Twin Cities Jewish Chorale in Minnesota will have a performance, “Bernstein: His Music and Jewish Roots,” on December 16, 2018. 

You know what, you can use this handy calendar tool to find events near you on any date you’d like. 

Go to a special exhibit regarding Bernstein’s life and accomplishments 

Museums and music schools are running their own full complement of events too. Here are some of them: 

  • The National Museum of American Jewish History (Philadelphia) has an exhibition “Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music,” which explores Bernstein’s Jewish identity and how it influenced his music. The exhibit closes September 2, 2018. 
  • The Curtis Institute of Music (Philadelphia), where Bernstein earned his conducting diploma, is putting hundreds of Bernstein archives on display, including a copy of Romeo and Juliet where he put notes for his development of West Side Story. 
  • The Grammy Museum has a traveling exhibit of Bernstein artifacts, including his childhood piano. 
  • The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery (Washington, D.C.) is displaying a celebrated photograph of Bernstein, taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson, conducting at Carnegie Hall in the 1960s. The portrait will be on display until September 23, 2018. 

Take advantage of online resources to enjoy and learn about Bernstein 

  • Have a movie night to enjoy one of his movies. If you want a full musical, go for West Side Story or On the Town, featuring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra.

 Here’s an alt clip if you prefer: 


If you want to hear Bernstein’s dramatic movie scores, then check out On the Waterfront or the Hitchcock thriller Rear Window. 

  • Listen to Bernstein’s influence lecture at Harvard on The Unanswered Question regarding musical forms and history.  

Of course, YouTube is a treasure trove of Bernstein interview clips and performances. Here’s a clip of him conducting the Vienna Philharmonic:

And here’s an hour-long documentary Teachers and Teaching showcasing Bernstein as a performer and teacher:


Learn about Bernstein from those who knew him 

  • Here’s a roundup of recollections from other music greats, published shortly after Bernstein’s death in 1990, which includes thoughts from violinist Midori and composer William Schuman.
  • A collection of Bernstein’s letters was published in 2013. You can read about them here or find the collection here.

Unlimited opportunities to explore all things Bernstein 

Really, you can find countless types of events, materials, and resources to learn about and enjoy any aspect of Bernstein's life over this next year. Your options are as varied and vibrant as the great man’s accomplishments.    

Image of Leonard Berstein-1955 photographed by Al Ravenna, World Telegram staff photographer - Library of Congress

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