Hello one and all!
Jamie Bernstein here, and if you come back again, you'll find descriptions of my many travels with "The Bernstein Beat" -- the concert for kids and families that I invented with my friend and colleague Michael Barrett. This concert is modelled after my dad's own Young People's Concerts, which were broadcast on TV for decades and set the gold standard for music education in this country -- and maybe even everywhere.
Over several decades, Leonard Bernstein covered myriad topics and composers in his concerts -- talking in his lively, personable way; going to the piano to make occasional illustrations; and conducting the New York Philharmonic in the various works under examination. But, in a rare burst of modesty, Bernstein neglected to focus on one particular composer: himself. That's where Michael and I come in.
In 1997, we began work on "The Bernstein Beat," a family concert that would introduce a new generation kids to the music of Leonard Bernstein. We decided to explore the topic of rhythm -- which automatically steered us to all the jumpingest, most kid-friendly Bernstein music, including excerpts from "On the Town," "MASS," "Fancy Free," "Candide" -- and of course, "West Side Story." Neither Mike nor I had ever written such a concert before, but we just had a feeling we'd know what to do. Mike, who was my dad's assistant conductor for several years, would be the musical expert, and I'd be the writer. He'd conduct, and I'd narrate.
It was a whole lot harder than we expected! It took us nearly two years to get our concert ready for its first performance, in April of 1998, in Salt Lake City with the Utah Symphony. We were in awe, thinking about how my dad could crank out half a dozen YPC's a YEAR, all written in longhand on yellow legal pads. And he did EVERYTHING: the writing, the narrating, the conducting.
Although well received, "The Bernstein Beat" was, we realized, a bit long and maybe still a tad earnest. It even had an intermission: way too demanding for little kids! But we adapted, refined, relaxed. Now our concert clocks in at just under an hour, and there's an even shorter version for school groups. "The Bernstein Beat" is informal and amusing and goes like the wind. We love doing it, and the kids, parents and teachers have a blast.
Two years ago, Mike and I finally hit the big time: we brought "The Bernstein Beat" to Carnegie Hall. A woman from ICM, Pat Winter, attended that concert and decided to take on the concert and me as clients. Since then, "the Beat" has gone all over the place! And that's what this blog's all about.
Since Salt Lake City, "The Beat" has been literally all over the world: from Beijing to Havana; from Sapporo to Washington D.C. to Miami, to name just a few. And many more concerts to come! It's not always Michael conducting, and it's not always me narrating. But we do it as often as we can, because it's so much fun. And that's what we most hope to convey to our audiences: the FUN of music -- which was what Leonard Bernstein excelled at doing.
It's a noble and happy task. And I'll keep you posted! So long for now...