Bernstein was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He was highly regarded as a director, composer, pianist, and educator. He is probably best known to the public as long time music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra; for conducting concerts by many of the world's leading orchestras; and for writing the music for the musical West Side Story. All told he wrote three symphonies, two operas, five musicals, and numerous other pieces. Bernstein's politics were decidedly left wing, but unlike some of his contemporaries, he was not blacklisted in the 1950s. Bernstein married actress and author Felicia Montealegre in 1951. The couple had three children.
His best-known effort in the field of musical education was his telecast series of "Young People's Concerts".
Especially unforgettable is Leonard Bernstein's last production with Unitel. On Christmas Day, December 25, 1989 Bernstein featured Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 at the Berlin Celebration Concert in order to celebrate with Berlin and the world the Fall of the Wall. Over 100 million people shared this unique experience by watching Leonard Bernstein's Berlin Concert performance, broadcast by live television in more than 20 countries. For this occasion Bernstein had reworded Friedrich Schiller's text of Ode to Joy, substituting the word "freedom" (Freiheit) for "joy" (Freude). "I'm sure that Beethoven would have given us his blessing", said Bernstein.
Some of Bernstein's compositions are:
- "Age of Anxiety"
- A Quiet Place
- Trouble in Tahiti