TALK - LEONARD BERNSTEIN: A BORN TEACHER
By Jamie Bernstein
People often say that Leonard Bernstein was a born teacher, but actually it's more accurate to say that he was a born student who just couldn't wait to share what he learned. In his whole life, he never stopped studying.
Leonard Bernstein had such facility as a teacher that he was sometimes not taken seriously as a scholar. But make no mistake; hereally did his homework. As a young student, he applied himself at Boston Latin School, Harvard and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. He made the most of his liberal arts education at Harvard, where he studied as wide a range of subjects as he could fit into his schedule. Leonard Bernstein really should be the poster boy for a liberal arts education; everything he absorbed seemed to inform his own music eventually. Later on, he absorbed mountains of knowledge from the various mentors in his life: Dimitri Mitropoulos, Serge Koussevitzky, Aaron Copland. But as well versed as he was in the field of music, he never shut down the learning factory. On the contrary; he stoked it up dramatically in the third quarter of his life.
In the 1970's, Bernstein turned himself back into a student again in order to prepare his six Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard. He immersed himself in Chomskyan linguistics, absorbing an entire new field of knowledge, so that he could then apply the principles of linguistics to music -- thereby creating a brand new field of study, and turning himself back into a teacher again in the process. Ambitious? Oh, yes! Was he in over his head? Completely! He was never happier than he was in those 18 months on the Harvard campus, reveling in his dual roles as student and teacher.