Leonard Bernstein | Homeschool Music Lesson Ideas
from the Hey Kid's Meet the Composer Index
Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) American Composer, Conductor, Teacher and Pianist
Preview and Print
Preview and print this free printable composer biography by clicking on the green button.
Leonard Bernstein was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1918. His father, Sam Bernstein, did not support young Leonard's interest in music at first. Despite this, his father took him to many orchestra concerts. At one of these concerts he heard a piano performance that captivated him. It was then that he began to learn how to play the piano. Read more....
Create a Writing Assignment
Write a few paragraphs on Leonard Bernstein that includes facts about his life and music. Then ask your child to complete the project by watching and describing several recorded performances from Bernstein's West Side Story on YouTube.com. The following questions will help to guide their critique.
America from West Side Story
Maria from West Side Story
At the Gym/Mambo from West Side Story
1) West Side Story explores the rivalry between two teenage gangs of different cultural backgrounds. Tony, a member of the Manhattan gang, falls in love with Maria, the sister of a member of the rival Puerto Rican gang. The dark theme which focused on social issues and sophisticated music marked a turning point in American musical theater. How is West Side Story different than Rodger's and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!, which opened on on Broadway in 1943?
Oh What A Beautiful Morning from Oklahoma
(Through each contribution to the musical theater, including Oklahoma!, Carousel, The King and I and The Sound of Music, composer Richard Rodger's celebrated life. His musicals were filled with positive themes and happy endings.)
2) The original production of West Side Story debuted on Broadway in 1957. How is the music or dancing different than today?
Print a Word Search
Print a Meet the Composer Word Search for Leonard Bernstein. Let your kids know how many words there are to find, and then ask them to complete the word search by identifying and circling the keywords found in the "Hey Kid's, Meet Leonard Bernstein" biography. Completing the exercise in this way will strengthen your child's reading skills as they work to evaluate the main ideas in the text.
Watch Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts
Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts with the New York Philharmonic stand among his greatest achievements. These televised programs introduced an entire generation to the joys of classical music. Bernstein conducted his first Young People's Concert on January 18, 1958, just two weeks after becoming Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. Such programs were already a Philharmonic tradition when Bernstein arrived but he made them a centerpiece of his work, part of what he described as his educational mission." Looking back on the concerts years later, he referred to them as being "among my favorite, most highly prized activities of my life."
When he took a sabbatical season from the orchestra in 1964-65, he still came back to lead the Young People's Concerts. He continued to lead these programs until 1972 even though he had stepped down as director of the Philharmonic in 1969. Bernstein led a total of fifty-three Young People's Concerts during those fourteen years and covered a broad range of subjects. The works of the great composers were explored including tributes to modern masters such as Dmitri Shostakovich, Paul Hindemith, Gustav Holst, Aaron Copland and Charles Ives. Bernstein discussed "Jazz in the Concert Hall," "Folk Music in the Concert Hall," and "The Latin-American Spirit." He explained the intricacies of Music Theory in programs such as "Musical Atoms: A Study of Intervals" and "What is a Mode?" He broached complex aesthetic issues such as "What Does Music Mean?" (his first program) with clarity and without condescension. Bernstein also used the Young People's Concerts to introduce young performers to the musical world. The sixteen year-old pianist Andrí Watts made his debut in the concert of January 15, 1963. Originally broadcast on Saturday mornings, the programs were considered so important that for three glorious years CBS presented them at 7:30 p.m. (prime time for television viewing). Eventually the programs were moved to Sunday afternoons. The concerts were translated into other languages and syndicated to forty countries.
Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts boxed set is retails for $149.00, and includes 25 of the 53 concerts originally aired on CBS from 1958-1962. The 9-disk series is also available for rental from Nexflix.com.
1. What Does Music Mean?
2. What is American Music?
3. What is Orchestration?
4. What Makes Music Symphonic?
5. What is Classical Music?
6. Humor in Music
7. What is a Concerto?
8. Who is Gustav Mahler?
9. Folk Music in the Concert Hall
10. What is Impressionism?
11. Happy Birthday, Igor Stravinsky
12. What is a Melody?
13. The Latin American Spirit
14. Jazz in the Concert Hall
15. What is Sonata Form?
16. A Tribute to Sibelius
17. Musical Atoms: A Study in Intervals
18. The Sound of an Orchestra
19. A Birthday Tribute to Shostakovich
20. What is a Mode?
21. A Toast to Vienna in 3/4 Time
22. Quiz-Concert: How Musical Are You?
23. Berlioz Takes a Trip
24. Two Ballet Birds
25. Fidelio: A Celebration of Life
Sign up to receive the MakingMusicFun.net Newsletter so you don't miss a thing!