The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Honors Leonard Bernstein in New Exhibition

Leonard Bernstein at 100 celebrates the centennial of America’s greatest classical composer and conductor.

To celebrate the centennial of America’s greatest classical composer and conductor, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts is partnering with the GRAMMY Museum®  on a new, exciting exhibition opening December 9th. Drawing from more than 150 photographs, personal items, papers, scores, correspondence, costumes, furniture, and films, Leonard Bernstein at 100marks the official exhibit of the centennial and is the most comprehensive retrospective of Bernstein’s life and career.

First premiering at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C, Leonard Bernstein at 100 travels to the Library for the Performing Arts to join in a city-wide celebration with other cultural institutions such as The New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet and the American Ballet Theater.

The exhibition includes a number of interactive displays, designed to allow the museum visitor deep access into Bernstein’s creative mind and music legacy. A listening bar will enable visitors to explore some of Bernstein’s most noted works; and a vocal booth gives visitors the chance to sing lead in West Side Story. Another interactive breaks down the parts of a symphony for greater understanding of Bernstein’s greatest orchestral works, while a specially designed interactive gives visitors the opportunity to step into Bernstein’s conducting shoes and lead the New York Philharmonic.

Items on display will include:

  • Bernstein’s conductor baton; his first childhood piano; and the desk used to compose West Side Story;

  • Handwritten score sheets for songs from West Side Story, including “America,” “Tonight,” and “Maria”; and Bernstein’s handwritten Harvard study notebook from 1939;

  • Bernstein home movies, GRAMMY® performances, interviews with contemporaries and colleagues, clips of his most noted stage works, segments taken from Bernstein’s famous Young People’s Concerts, and performances with the New York Philharmonic.

"The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts is honored to participate in a fourth collaboration with the GRAMMY Museum on an exhibition honoring revered artist, Leonard Bernstein. A pivotal figure in cultural history, Bernstein’s connection with New York City is inimitable," said Jacqueline Z. Davis, Barbara G. and Lawrence A. Fleischman Executive Director of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. “Patrons will be able to immerse themselves within his life and career not only through the artifacts that symbolized his career, but by the incredible interactive experiences being offered.”

“Leonard Bernstein continues to have an immeasurable influence on classical music and popular culture. His incredible achievements not only as a conductor and composer, but as an educator, musician, humanitarian, and cultural ambassador, continue to inspire future generations of artists,” said Bob Santelli, Curator of the exhibit and Founding Executive Director of the GRAMMY Museum. “The GRAMMY Museum is honored to partner with the Library for the Performing Arts and to have the opportunity to pay tribute to Leonard by curating a traveling exhibit that will educate visitors of all ages on the legacy and impact of this great American icon.”


Thursday, December 21, 6pm:

Bernstein on Film: On the Waterfront

Bruno Walter Auditorium

Leonard Bernstein’s only original film score brings a mournful and percussive sound to this classic tale of corruption on the New York docks. The film won eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Marlon Brando, but while Bernstein’s score was nominated it ultimately lost to Dimitri Tiomkin’s more radio-friendly music for The High and the Mighty. Reportedly frustrated by the fragmentation and dialed-down volume of his music — a given in any film score — Bernstein chose to forego any future composing opportunities  in the medium.

Tuesday, January 23, 7pm:

Bernstein Family Memories

Bruno Walter Auditorium

Bob Santelli, curator of the centennial exhibition Leonard Bernstein at 100, leads a conversation with family members and special guests.

Thursday, January 25, 6pm:

Bernstein Findings: What Is American Music?

Bruno Walter Auditorium

January 18, 1950 – WNYC, live from Tanglewood: “Here, seated around two pianos are four of the leading American composers – Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Lucas Foss, and Irving Fine… Probably the best way to give you a good picture of what American music promises for the future, is to just throw the topic to the four gentlemen, like tossing it to the lions, as it were, and let them bat it around…” As part of our Bernstein centennial celebration, the Library reconsiders the question “What is American Music.” After listening to a historic WNYC recording of Bernstein and his contemporaries, a diverse quartet of contemporary music makers, including Vijay Iyer, Gabriel Kahane, Tania Leon, and Julia Wolfe, gather around the piano to discuss a new definition for American music.

Wednesday, February 14, 7 pm:

Play-along: Mahler 5 Adagietto

Library cafe

Make a Valentine’s Day date, tune up your strings, and help us drown the Library in the sounds of love and romantic passion. As the legend goes, the sublime fourth movement of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony was written as a word-less love letter from the composer to his new, young bride, the infatuating Alma. Among the treasures of the Library’s collections is a copy of Mahler's Fifth, hand-written in lavender pencil by Alma Mahler. The Library invites all string players and harpists to join our one-night-only community orchestra, led by New York Youth Symphony conductor Michael Repper, and play the famous Adagietto “love letter,” in celebration of Valentine’s Day. See the Library’s Alma Mahler manuscript, plus Leonard Bernstein’s annotated Mahler 5 conductor’s score from the New York Philharmonic archives.  

Wednesday, February 21, 7 pm:

Bernstein / Mahler “Titan” Training

Library cafe

In preparation for the full listening-marathon of nine consecutive symphonies, presented by The New York Philharmonic on February 25, join us for a training session presented by The Library for the Performing Arts. Listen to excerpts of Mahler’s “Titan” and “Resurrection” Symphonies. On one large screen, follow the Library’s digitized scores containing Mahler’s own hand-written corrections, on another, follow the digitized, annotated conductor’s scores used by Leonard Bernstein.  Special guests will share memories and insights on Bernstein and Mahler and recite Bernstein’s own written thoughts on his favorite composer.  

Leonard Bernstein at 100 was curated by the GRAMMY Museum® in collaboration with The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and the Bernstein Family. Presented in cooperation with the Bernstein Family, The Leonard Bernstein Office, Inc., Brandeis University, and the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Additional support is provided by The New York Community Trust - LuEsther T. Mertz Advised Fund, the Leo Shull Foundation for the Arts, The Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation, Inc., Barbara G. Fleischman, Howard and Sarah Solomon, and Dasha Epstein.

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts gratefully acknowledges the leadership support of Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman. Additional support for exhibitions has been provided by Judy R. and Alfred A. Rosenberg and the Miriam and Harold Steinberg Foundation.

Press Contact:Sara Beth Joren |

About The New York Public Library For The Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts houses one of the world’s most extensive combinations of circulating, reference, and rare archival collections in its field. These materials are available free of charge, along with a wide range of special programs, including exhibitions, seminars, and performances. An essential resource for everyone with an interest in the arts — whether professional or amateur — the Library is known particularly for its prodigious collections of non-book materials such as historic recordings, videotapes, autograph manuscripts, correspondence, sheet music, stage designs, press clippings, programs, posters, and photographs. The Library is part of The New York Public Library system, which has 90 locations in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and is a lead provider of free education for all.