If you've ever heard songs from the musical West Side Story, you've heard music created by a man known and appreciated by many music lovers. Leonard Bernstein, born August 25, 1918, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, received world-wide recognition for his classical and show music and is known in particular for performances of Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Sibelius, and Mahler as well as his work on Broadway. Though he died on October 14, 1990, at the age of 72, much of his work is still being enjoyed today.
Bernstein was educated at Harvard and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. He also spent some time at Tanglewood, a summer institute for training young conductors and musicians in conjunction with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
In 1943, Bernstein became assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. This was his first position as a permanent conductor. In his first time to conduct the Philharmonic, he was called on to replace another conductor, Bruno Walter, who had become ill. Bernstein was called in at the last minute, with no time to practice. Bernstein did such a good job that he began to receive praise and recognition. His first full-scale work, Jeremiah, was performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony in 1944 and received the New York Music Critics' Circle Award for the best American work of that year. Bernstein became the music director of the New York City Symphony in 1945.