Reprinted from Google Doodles:

Happy 100th birthday to American music icon Leonard Bernstein! The youngest conductor ever to lead the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, he was also the first U.S. conductor to gain international renown, leading a 1953 performance of ‘Medea’ at La Scala in Milan, Italy’s foremost opera house.

The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Bernstein discovered music around age 10 and overcame his parents’ resistance to his passion for the arts. His creativity and talent spilled over from one artform to the next, and throughout his life, the most persistent criticisms of his work were that he did too much. “I want to conduct,” he wrote late in life. “I want to play the piano. I want to write for Hollywood. I want to write symphonic music. I want to keep on trying to be, in the full sense of that wonderful word, a musician. I also want to teach. I want to write books and poetry. And I think I can still do justice to them all.”

Today’s Doodle celebrates Bernstein’s life set to one of his  most iconic works—the score to West Side Story. The tale, following the turf war between two rival gangs and star-crossed lovers in the west side of Manhattan, was brought to life through Bernstein’s gripping score. The original 1957 production was nominated for six Tony Awards including Best Musical. Explore the history and legacy of the iconic musical by visiting Google Arts & Culture.

A larger-than-life personality, Bernstein held the baton with emphatic mannerisms, reacting to the emotion of the music mid-performance. As Director of the New York Philharmonic, he exposed generations of young people to musical programming on television. Before Bernstein’s tenure, no widely-aired television show existed to educate youth through musical performances. In this way, and as a popular commentator about music on radio and TV, he made intellectual culture more accessible to the public at large.

Bernstein was also a skilled lecturer—winning a Grammy in 1961 for Best Documentary or Spoken Word Recording (other than comedy). He published books about music and lectured on poetry at Harvard University.

His legacy endures as a musical polymath, a creator of culture, and an example that sometimes more is more.

Happy Birthday, Leonard Bernstein!

Here are some articles celebrating Bernstein from around the web:

Life With Leonard Bernstein

Jamie Bernstein watches her father, Leonard Bernstein, conduct the New York Philharmonic at a rehearsal for one of his Young People’s …

Here’s a fun example of Bernstein’s compositions performed by Kristin Chenowith:

Here’s an example of Bernstein as both a conductor and pianist:

And here is an example of Bernstein as an educator:


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