Ravinia's 'Bernstein 101' continues the great American composer's legacy

By Scott C. Morgan - Daily Herald
June 14, 2019

Centennial celebrations tied to the birth of late composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein officially ended last year. But the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park is keeping the party going with "Bernstein 101: The Celebration Continues," featuring a series of classical concerts, stage performances, film screenings and the Grammy Museum's traveling "Leonard Bernstein at 100" exhibit.

"We realized even before we even got to Bernstein's centennial last summer that there was so much there with him as a conductor, a composer, a pianist, a great music teacher, an activist -- so many facets to this most wonderful of American musicians," said Ravinia president and CEO Welz Kauffman.

Bernstein (1918-1990) only conducted 13 performances at Ravinia, making his Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut 75 years ago in 1944. But with globe-trotting conductor Marin Alsop on staff at Ravinia as its "artistic curator," it made sense to celebrate Bernstein because she was one of his last students and protégés to go on to a major career.

Other living links to Bernstein are his three children with the late Felicia Montealegre: Jamie, Alexander and Nina. Jamie Bernstein is returning to Ravinia this summer to promote her father's legacy as a concert narrator and a pre-screening panelist to two Chicago Symphony Orchestra performances: "Lenny: A Musical Portrait in Symphony, Song and Story" on Saturday, July 27, and "On the Waterfront" (a live performance of Bernstein's score for the 1954 film).

"We're so thrilled that Ravinia decided they weren't done celebrating," said Jamie Bernstein. "My brother and sister and I really love our dad's music, so it's no hardship to have attended so many concerts and performances and hear his music being played all over the world."

As a writer, Jamie Bernstein has taken the lead among her siblings in promoting her late father's work. She shared plenty of impressions and eyebrow-raising details, including family drug use, in the revealing 2018 memoir "Famous Father Girl," which was released in paperback this week. The book's title came from a playground taunt Jamie received as a kid.

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Jamie Bernstein