The Maltz Museum Hosts “Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music” Exhibit

Leonard Bernstein conducting (Paul de Hueck, courtesy the Leonard Bernstein Office, Inc.)

Opens Wed 9/25

Leonard Bernstein is much more than just the world-famous conductor.

Sure, mainstream audiences know his iconic works, including West Side Story, but the maestro was an American Jew who lived through World War II, the Holocaust, the Vietnam War and turbulent social change that challenged his faith in God and belief in humanity.

The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage explores the man and legend, hosting the Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music exhibit Wed 9/25-Sun 3/1/20.

“This is a much-anticipated special exhibition that illustrates Bernstein’s life, Jewish identity and social activism through 100 photographs and artifacts,” Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage managing director David Schafer said. “Most audiences will be familiar with Bernstein’s works, but not necessarily with how he responded to the political and social crises of his day.

“He popularized classical music, but he’s also a figure who expressed himself through social activism making the world a better place through his music. That’s what is so exciting.”

Included in the exhibition are Bernstein’s piano, an annotated copy of Romeo and Juliet used for the development of West Side Story, the program for his Carnegie Hall debut, his conducting suit and his easel used for studying scores and composing.

There’s also a state-of-the-art multimedia interactive display which invites visitors to explore the many layers to Bernstein’s original compositions, including how the composer wove elements of synagogue music and his own family’s history into his works for film, Broadway and orchestra.

“The mission of the Maltz Museum is to introduce visitors to the beauty and diversity of Jewish heritage in the context of the American experience,” Schafer said. “We also are all about connecting and celebrating all people, and connecting our communities that represent diverse faiths and backgrounds and cultures.

“This exhibit is also all about social justice, learning how he broke barriers by hiring black performers on Broadway to debut on the musical On the Town.”

In addition to the exhibit, there are additional educational programming events planned. There’s also a film portion featuring Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy, which is narrated by Cleveland’s own Joel Grey, that takes place Wed 10/2 at the Maltz Museum. The film examines the unique role of Jewish composers and lyricists in the creation of the modern American musical.

Also, the “Behind the Lens with Oscar Award-winning Filmmaker Howard Rosenman” event, which details how a chance encounter with Bernstein led to a romantic relationship, takes place Wed 10/24 at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland.

The centerpiece of outside programming is “The Bernstein Beat with The Cleveland Orchestra” featuring Bernstein’s daughter Jamie 2/2/20 at Severance Hall.

Naturally, there are many takeaways from Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music.

“People are going to not only learn about this American cultural icon but also how music was used to express a world view and social activism,” Schafer said. “That was central to Leonard Bernstein’s music and that’s an important takeaway.”

[Written by John Benson]


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