Leonard Bernstein at 100, Exhibit Review


In the exhibit is a station allowing visitors to listen to artists that had inspired Bernstein through mentorship or their influential work.


Print, Leonard Bernstein with Many Hands, Al Hirschfeld, 1958. Courtesy of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation. Picture taken at the Woody Guthrie Center.


“Leonard Bernstein was the greatest and most important classical music figure in American history”

The Leonard Bernstein at 100 exhibit at the Woody Guthrie Center shows the life and amazing accomplishments of the music icon. At the entry of the exhibit, visitors are welcomed with a large picture of him conducting, alongside a body of text describing him as many things: a conductor, composer, educator, concert pianist, philanthropist, and political activist. The exhibit goes through his life with his younger years, all the way through his time at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Bernstein eventually led the New York Philharmonic from 1958 to 1969. The exhibit also shows his diplomas, instruments, and even the cover of the February 1957 Time Magazine showing Bernstein conducting an orchestra.

Now you might be asking, “Why is this exhibit at the Woody Guthrie Center?” There is no evidence showing that Bernstein and Guthrie ever met, but the exhibit states they were both influenced by composer, Aaron Copland, and individuals in the Popular Front. The exhibit also states how they both shared concern for the oppressed, and those born into poverty with little chance of realizing the American Dream.

The last portion of the exhibit shows the many medals Bernstein received in his lifetime, including an Emmy Award and a GRAMMY Award. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1985.

Both the Woody Guthrie Center and the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art feature different parts of the larger exhibit curated by the GRAMMY Museum, honoring Bernstein’s life. The exhibit states while the Woody Guthrie Center shows his political and social activism, the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art shows his spiritual side. What an excellent way to involve multiple museums and express the same person showing different aspects of their life!