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Leonard Bernstein Essay

1255 words - 5 pages

Leonard Bernstein

          Leonard Bernstein was born in Lawrenceville, Massachusettes on
August 25, 1918. He was the first born child of Samuel and Jennie Bernstein,
who lived in Boston, but had gone to Lawrenceville to visit some relatives.
          Bernstein's parents had little knowledge of, or interest in
classical music. The only records Leonard remembers hearing on his family
phonograph when he was a child were the popular hit songs of the day, such as “
Barney Google” and “Oh by Jingo.”
For the most part, Leonard Bernstein was an unhappy child. He said, “
I was a miserable, terrified little child” (Musicians p.64). His family moved
from town to town, during Bernstein's school days, not giving him a chance to
make close friends or feel at home. Sadly, Bernstein's peers would make fun of
and tease Bernstein. He was a very sickly child as he suffered from chronic
asthma, rose fever, and hay fever. This pathetic child grew to be a very shy
          Leonard always had a heart for music, even as a young boy. As
an eight year old, one morning, when he was sitting in the synagogue, the
religious music of the choir and organ overwhelmed him by it's beauty and caused
him to burst into tears. When Leonard and his family would visit their friends,
Leonard would sneak over to the piano and experiment. When he was eleven, his
aunt sent her piano to his house for his family to keep for storage. “I made
love to it right away” he recalled (Musicians p. 65). He could escape from all
his frustrations and sadness by playing the piano. His parents didn't like the
fact that he was always at the piano, they wanted him to concentrate on his
school work. They thought of piano playing as a waste of time because it stood
in the way of Leonard's learning his father's business, which they planned for
him to eventually take over.
          At the age of ten, Leonard found a piano teacher who would give
him lessons for a dollar a lesson. But that teacher soon moved away and Leonard
found himself paying another piano teacher three dollars a lesson out of his
allowance. After more than a year of piano lessons that just weren't teaching
him much, Leonard found a new, and this time excellent piano teacher named Helen
Coates. She was sensitive to Leonard's shyness and knew what it took to teach
him. She had him study symphonies and operas from the printed page and
encouraged him to compose. She also encouraged him to go to concerts. After
watching Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring and Prokofiev's Classical Symphony, he
became aware not only of symphonic music, but specifically of twentieth century
music. Until then, he never realized that music had a future. He had always
thought of it as something that had already been written. Bernsteins desire for
music became...

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