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Medal by Marika Somogyi (1993), Leonard Bernstein, Conductor & composer .

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

Leonard Bernstein was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts on August 25, 1918. When his aunt sent her upright piano to the Bernstein home, 10 year old Lenny looked at it, hit the key, cried "Ma, I want lessons," ... and the rest is history.

In 1943, Bernstein was appointed assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. A few months later - at the age of 25 - Lenny burst on the national music scene when he substituted at the last minute for an ailing conductor. His brilliant performance earned a tremendous ovation from the audience, and an enthusiastic review on the front page of The New York Times.

Bernstein was named music director of the New York Philharmonic in 1958, becoming the first American born person to head a top symphony orchestra. In his 11 years in this position, the New York Philharmonic enjoyed unparalleled success and prestige ... and the orchestra's recordings became best sellers. His association with the Israel Philharmonic began shortly after the establishment of the Jewish State, when Bernstein conducted seven official concerts in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa.

Bernstein's classical works include ballets (Fancy Free, Dybbuk), operas (Trouble in Tahiti, A Quite Place), and symphonies (Jeremiah, The Age of Anxiety, Kaddish). Many regarded him as the potential savior of the American musical, because of shows like Wonderful Town, Candide and West Side Story. Bernstein also wrote the score of the motion picture On the Waterfront.

One of Leonard Berstein's greatest achievements was bringing music to the masses via television, beginning in 1957 on the "Omnibus" program, and then as host of the New York Philharmonic's Emmy Award-winning "Young People's Concerts." One critic wrote: "Bernstein lured us onto the stage with him, holding us with his every word until, miraculously, we actually began to understand how music worked and what made it beautiful." Leonard Bernstein was widely regarded as the most gifted and versatile American musician of the 20th century.

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