Bernstein at Brandeis

University Archives and Special Collections, Brandeis

Along with the rest of the world, Brandeis will be celebrating the centennial birthday of renowned composer/conductor/faculty member Leonard Bernstein, H’59, born Aug. 25, 1918.

Bernstein was a visiting professor at Brandeis from 1951-56, teaching courses on modern music, opera and composition. In June 1952, as Brandeis marked the graduation of its first class of students, he directed the university’s inaugural Festival of the Creative Arts. The festival featured the American premiere of Kurt Weill’s “The Threepenny Opera”; the premiere of Bernstein’s one-act opera “Trouble in Tahiti”; and a slew of discussions, poetry readings, and dance and music performances, including Igor Stravinsky’s choral ballet “Les Noces,” choreographed and danced by Merce Cunningham.

“By any standards,” wrote founding President Abram Sachar, “it was a ne plus ultra week for a first Commencement.”

The photo above was taken in March 1952, probably by Ralph Norman, the official Brandeis photographer at the time. Bernstein (left) is shown rehearsing for the festival with two unidentified Boston Symphony Orchestra musicians.

For updated information about university events related to the Bernstein centennial, visit the Office of the Arts website.