August 25, 1918 - October 14, 1990
Leonard Bernstein was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and grew up in the Boston area. His father sold wigs and beauty supplies, and wanted his oldest son to take over the business. But after Leonard -- or Lenny, as all his friends called him -- composed the class song for his high school graduation, he went on to Harvard and majored in music.
Leonard Bernstein got his big break when he was the 25-year-old assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic. At the last minute, he stepped in to conduct a concert in Carnegie Hall that was broadcast live over the radio all across America. The audience loved him, and the event made front page headlines in the newspaper.
When Bernstein was eventually named music director of the New York Philharmonic, he was the first American to become permanent conductor of a major American orchestra. Leonard Bernstein used television, which was brand new at the time, to bring classical music to a very wide audience through his "Young People's Concerts."
Bernstein also loved to compose musical theater. His musicals include "On The Town," "Wonderful Town," and "West Side Story."
See other composers from the Modern period