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Leonard Bernstein Centennial Inspires WDAV-Class Collaboration

Leonard Bernstein
Legendary composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein brought incredible energy to the stage.

Leonard Bernstein—the larger-than-life pianist, composer, conductor, author and educator—continues to inspire new generations of American musicians. This year marks his centenary, a milestone celebrated by the arts community across the nation through performance and study of the man behind the music.

Davidson College and WDAV Classical Public Radio is honoring Bernstein’s memory on the stage and in the classroom.

In his seminar course for senior music majors, Estes Professor of Music Bill Lawing uses Bernstein as the lens through which to view nearly every aspect of American music and culture in the 20th century.

“Beyond his legacy as the composer for West Side Story and the conductor of the New York Philharmonic,” Lawing said, “he was a composer who borrowed equally from the classical tradition and from jazz; a writer who believed in the importance of communicating the essence of music; and a savvy media personality who was among the first to understand the importance of television in communicating meaningful ideas.”

WDAV Music Director Ted Weiner remembered Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts, a series of family concerts of classical music performed by the New York Philharmonic, as a great example Bernstein’s work to make music accessible and encourage listeners of all ages to think critically about the music they hear and how it makes them feel.

Following Bernstein’s lead, WDAV partnered with Lawing and the students in his course to produce a series on the station’s blog, Of Note.

“I’m excited for this seminar because it provides a unique opportunity for us to delve into the details of just who Bernstein really was, so as to understand the mind behind the genius,” Amelia Willingham ’19 said. “Working with WDAV as part of the class has been such a special privilege, as it provides us a professional platform on which to publish our research as well as an opportunity to share what we’ve learned with the classical music community outside of the classroom.”

Last month, WDAV on-air hosts, listeners and Lawing’s seminar students gathered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to attend a performance of Bernstein’s monumental Mass at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. The students then traveled to Washington, D.C., to complete archival research at the extensive Leonard Bernstein Collection at the Library of Congress. They continue to share blog posts about their work.

The seminar caps a season of celebration that included a “Bernstein Birthday Bash” performance by the Davidson College Symphony Orchestra, and WDAV’s homage to Bernstein, which featured some of his best original compositions and memorable orchestral recordings, during the week of his 100th birthday.

To read more about Bernstein and learn more about WDAV’s previous collaboration with Davidson College Music Department students highlighting disability and music, visit the Of Note blog.

Amanda Preston
ampreston@davidson.edu