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  • Writer's pictureDavid Winkler

One of my childhood musical memories is watching on black and white television Leonard Bernstein's "Young People's Concerts." Over 50 of these concerts were produced during a fourteen year period from 1958 to 1972. In these programs, Bernstein conducted the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in an hour-long broadcast in which he explained various aspects of music to the audience. Besides being an outstanding composer and conductor, Bernstein was a natural teacher, with the ability to explain complex ideas in simple ways that even children could understand.

These programs are still available on DVD, and you can also find some of them on YouTube. One of my favorites is the episode titled "What Is Classical Music?" Bernstein's answer is that "classical" music is exact music ... i.e., music that is intended to be played exactly as it was written by the composer (with allowances for interpretation by the performer). This is in contrast to other styles, such as jazz, pop, or folk music, where the performers take the basic tune and play it in their own way. Another favorite is one in which he demonstrates the design of a musical composition in a program titled, "What is Sonata Form?"

Bernstein also conducted a number of broadcasts during the 1950s for a culture-related program on CBS television called Omnibus. For instance, in one of the episodes, he explained Beethoven's compositional process for the famous Fifth Symphony. You can view the program at this link. And you can read more about Bernstein–conductor, composer, and educator–at


As you're choosing your music for this Christmas season, don't forget to check out our many offerings here.

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