A presence on Broadway, in Hollywood, at Carnegie Hall and the New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein was a major force in twentieth century music. His exuberant and dramatic style caught the heart of America, bringing classical music to thousands of people from diverse backgrounds. More than any American conductor before him, Bernstein expanded the audience of classical music while maintaining a deep artistic integrity.
Bernstein was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1918. His parents were first generation Jewish immigrants from Russia. Though he began learning the piano at age ten, his family hoped he would follow a more practical route, and sent him to the Boston Latin School. After graduating, he attended Harvard University, where he majored in music. His interest was in becoming a concert pianist, but upon graduating he began to seriously study orchestration at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
More important than any of the formal training, however, were the summers he spent in Tanglewood, Massachusetts, studying with the great conductor Serge Koussevitzky. In 1942, Koussevitzky invited Bernstein to be the assistant conductor at Tanglewood. Though very young for a conductor, his flamboyant style and emotionally charged performances caught the attention of others in the classical music community--one of whom was Arthur Rodzinzki, who appointed him assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic.