Those were glorious days in music education, when Bernstein would treat his young audiences like the intelligent and receptive human beings they were, instead of pandering and limiting the musical selections to loud and fast numbers of roughly three minutes’ duration. (He once devoted an entire program to the complete score to “Petrouchka.”) Such a contrast to the sorry attempts at introducing the young to music nowadays; kids know when they’re being talked down to, and the umpteenth comparison of an orchestra to a sports team, or lame humor, or musicians in silly costumes is not going to make music more palatable or meaningful or relevant.
“When you know that you’re reaching children without compromise or the assistance of acrobats, marching bands, slides, and movies, but that you are getting them with hard talk, a piano, and an orchestra, it gives you a gratification that is enormous.”
— Leonard Bernstein
Agreed. Part of this is because of the music education training that music ed majors get in college/grad programs nowadays. The curriculum focus has continually been moving more and more to a world music/popular/folk idiom, and less and less on classical music.
As a result, any music that is Western-classically oriented has to be taught as if we are force-feeding the kids their vitamins, and not with the idea that kids might actually ENJOY classical music without all the “packaging” and pandering that most arts organizations do.
I’d love to be the one to tell those music ed majors (and their professors) that it’s possible for interrelationships between all such musics to be taught and appreciated… Years ago, I presented a two-part seminar on the development of Western classical music to about twenty high schools in and around Seattle. While the kids were generally receptive to everything, the two pieces that really stirred them to visible enthusiasm were the “Agnus Dei” from Bernstein’s “Mass” (classical + rock) and the concluding choral section, “Rasga o Coração”, from Villa-Lobos‘ Chôros No. 10 (classical + folk). To say that there were occasions on which the students were “dancing in the aisles” is no understatement; it was wonderful to behold.
The faces of the children…a pure delight. Mixolidian or not. Thanks for this moment of late night hilarity!
What a genius. Almost 30 years since he died and we all miss him
To ‘Jan Kaznowski’: Another reader has complained that you are using this name by deception. Could you please verify by email that this is indeed your real name. NL
He educated so many young people throughout his life. He probably knew they could be potential subscribers to concerts when they would become adults! But beside that, he loved to teach and wanted the kids to know the music, feel and breathe it.
He signed my programme drinking a large glass of whisky. Nice guy.
What a great personality he was!
Conductor, composer, pianist, author, lecturer and educator– Leonard Bernstein is the greatest musician America has produced.
Absolutely brilliant. I remember these concerts vividly, almost verbatim. One of the highlights of my performing career was to play “extra” percussion for a Young People’s Concert, also taped for CBS. Gunther Schuller was guest conductor, Beverly Sills the hostess. Thanks for this, Norman.
He was a national treasure. He did so much to educate Americans on music; all music not just classical.
The Young People’s Concerts are what got me interested in classical music. They are brilliant, and should be shown in every school music class. Bravo Bernstein!
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