Leonard Bernstein was born on August 25, 1918. Bernstein's birth name was Louis, but his family always called him Leonard. At the age of 16 he legal changed his name to Leonard. Leonard grew up understanding that being a musician or artist was off limits. Leonard began playing piano at the age of 10. He had to save up his own money to pay for lessons, because his father refused to. Leonard, being a natural at the piano, impressed hi father enough that when his bar mitzvah came his father bought him a baby grand piano.
Helen Coates was his life long mentor, she taught him at Boston Latin School. Following graduation, Leonard studied music theory with Arthur Tillman Merritt and counterpoint with Walter Piston at Harvard University. In 1937, Bernstein fell in love when he saw Dmitri Mitropoulus conduct a Boston Symphony concert. After Mitropoulus heard Bernstein play a sonata the next day, Mitropoulus invited him to sit in on his rehearsals. After a week with Mitropoulus, Bernstein was set on making music the center of his life.
Leonard studied conducting at Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia under Fritz Reiner. At the age of 22, Bernstein was invited to join about 300 other students for a summer of musical experiences and performances at Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood. Bernstein got his big break in 1943 conducting the New York Philharmonic. He was one of the first American-native conductors to conduct world-class orchestras. Leonard was selected to participate in a master class in conducting taught by Serge Koussevitzky. Koussevitzky encouraged his belief in the importance of music. From 1945 to 1947 he conducted the New York City Center orchestra and appeared as a guest conductor in the United States, Europe, and Israel.
In 1951, Bernstein married Felicia Cohn Montealegre, a Chilean actress,...