Photograph of Leonard Bernstein conducting an orchestra

Leonard Bernstein Quotations

As a pianist, conductor, composer, educator, and long-time music director of the New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein received worldwide acclaim for his wide-ranging musical genius. As a young man, he chose not to act on career advice to change his Jewish name to a more Western European sounding one. He is perhaps most known for composing the beautiful ‘West Side Story’ in 1957.

Image: Photograph of Leonard Bernstein conducting an orchestra

“I’m not interested in having an orchestra sound like itself. I want it to sound like the composer.”

“Music can name the unnamable and communicate the unknowable.”

“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”

“I believe in people. I feel, love, need and respect people above all else, including natural scenery, organized piety and nationalistic superstructures. One human figure on the slope of a mountain can make the mountain disappear for me, one person fighting for truth can disqualify for me the entire system which had dispensed it.”

“A liberal is a man or a woman or a child who looks forward to a better day, a more tranquil night, and a bright, infinite future.”               

    “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” 

“The key to the mystery of a great artist is that for reasons unknown, he will give away his energies and his life just to make sure that one note follows another… and leaves us with the feeling that something is right in the world.” 

    “Technique is communication: the two words are synonymous in conductors.”
    “It was an initiation into the love of learning, of learning how to learn . . . as a matter of interdisciplinary cognition – that is, learning to know something by its relation to something else.” 
    “In the olden days, everybody sang. You were expected to sing as well as talk. It was a mark of the cultured man to sing. To know music.”                                                          
    “”Life without music is unthinkable. Music without life is academic. That is why my contact with music is a total embrace.”

 – Leonard Bernstein  (1918-1990)

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Richard J. Chandler, BA, MA Bachelor of Arts-Music & Master of Arts-Psychology