- NAME: Leonard Bernstein
- OCCUPATION: Songwriter, Pianist
- BIRTH DATE: August 25, 1918
- DEATH DATE: October 14, 1990
- EDUCATION: Boston Latin School, Harvard University, Curtis Institute of Music, Berkshire Music Center
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Lawrence, Massachusetts
- PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York
- Full Name: Leonard Bernstein
- Originally: Louis Bernstein
Best Known For
Leonard Bernstein was one of the first American-born conductors to receive worldwide fame. He composed the score for the Broadway musical West Side Story.
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Leonard was one of only five students accepted in the master class in conducting that was taught by the fame Serge Koussevitzky. The man became a father figure to Lenny, encouraging his belief in the power and importance of music.
Despite Bernstein’s passion and brilliance, he found himself out of work after the summer at Tanglewood. For a while he took odd jobs transcribing music, but then, out of pure luck, he was offered the position of assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic. Due to the war draft, very few able musicians remained stateside. The conductor Artur Rodzinski was given the rather unconventional recommendation of an American-born assistant—the asthma-stricken Bernstein. On November 14, 1943, Bernstein was called at 9 am. The symphony’s guest conductor, the very prestigious Bruno Walter, had fallen ill. Rodzinski—able but generous—ordered Bernstein to step up and conduct that afternoon’s concert. Step up he did. The young conductor amazed his crowd and his players. Ecstatic applause implored The New York Times to publish a front-page article about his performance. Overnight, Bernstein became a respected conductor, one who would lead the Philharmonic 11 times by the end of the season.
From 1945 to 1947, he conducted the New York City Center orchestra and appeared as a guest conductor across the United States, Europe, and Israel. Despite his great talents, rumors about his sexuality became rampant. His mentor Mitropoulos advised him to marry, believing that doing so would quash the speculations and secure his career. In 1951, Bernstein married the Chilean actress Felicia Cohn Montealegre. Although friends and colleagues always said Bernstein loved his wife, with whom he had three children, he continued to engage in extramarital liaisons with young men. In that same year, he wrote the musical Trouble in Tahiti (1951), a 45-minute two-character chamber piece about a bored, upper-middle-class couple.
Leonard’s musical life continued to blossom, taking him on several international tours during the 1950s. In 1952, he founded the Creative Arts Festival at Brandeis University. He also found a love for teaching. The television shows "Omnibus" and “Young People's Concerts” allowed him to speak to a whole new audience of music lovers. Always a fan of both classical and pop music, Bernstein wrote his first operetta, Candide in 1956. His second work for the stage was a collaboration with Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim, the beloved musical West Side Story. When it opened, the show garnered unanimous rave reviews, matched only by its movie version released in 1961.
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In the 1940s and 1950s, the United States was in the grips of a "red scare." Many prominent individuals suspected of sympathizing with liberal or humanitarian causes were branded a communist threat, and even accused of espionage. Hollywood was a major focus of the accusations, and after 10 actors refused to testify in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the blacklist was created. Hundreds of actors, actresses, directors, screenwriters and other entertainment professionals were barred from working. Here are some of the famous people who were on the Hollywood blacklist.
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