Omnibus

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The impact made by Bernstein's first Omnibus program is reflected in the many fan letters he received. Each letter has a distinct flavor, reflecting the diversity of the television audience. Compare this letter from a mother in California with the letter from the student at Yale University, below.

November 15, 1954

Dear Mr. Bernstein:

I'm not the person to write fan letters but after your appearance on Omnibus yesterday, I felt this is one letter I must write.

I have never enjoyed t.v. in the five years we have had a set, until yesterday.

Your dissertation [sic] of Beethoven's Fifth brought me back to the old days of Frederick Stock & the children's concerts in Chicago. Stock would always interrupt a symphony to explain one passage.

I don't see why you, or someone like you couldn't do a music appreciation program on the t.v. for all of us who are starved for the classics & would like to know more about the composers & the music.

...Even something for children. I know my children aren't getting the chance at concerts that I had. We are to [sic] far away from town to take them to concerts & I don't drive.

The children of today will grow up to be cowboy morons if some of the finer things don't come thru the t.v. screen soon.

Our seven year old son watched you yesterday and loved every second of it. Just think what a steady diet of music, good music, would do for these children.

I didn't mean to go on & on, but just to say thanks... and I hope we'll hear from you soon.



Robert Saudek was the producer for CBS's Omnibus. Following Bernstein's first appearance on the program, Saudek wrote to congratulate the conductor on his success.



Dear Leonard:

The returns are in and you have been elected by a landslide. It has been sometime since we have received such an amount of mail for a feature on OMNIBUS, and every single letter and telegram has been wildly enthusiastic.

Many thanks for all you did. I hope you feel like going on again before the season is over. We all enjoyed this association and hope you did.

Congratulations and all best wishes.



The power of Bernstein's Omnibus program on Beethoven was felt by people of different backgrounds and levels of musical knowledge and experience. This letter, written by a young man presumably at Yale University, provides a sharp contrast to the letter from a mother in California, above.

Dear Mr. Bernstein,

Thank you for an imaginative, informative, and stimulating period of musical education which you gave us on today's Omnibus. Your delightful 40 minutes of commentary present [sic] a considerably stronger argument than the volumes of testimony heretofore presented in favor of educational television.

I'm sorry to say that I am not one of those who feel that we can "bring culture" to the masses even through so all-pervasive a medium as television. However, I do believe that the mass[es] can be made more tolerant of other people's tastes through such activities, and also that persons with the ability to gain from artistic and musical experience may be given such experiences who might otherwise never have the opportunity to gain them.

Now that you have "broken the ice" in meaningful music education via t.v., I'd like to ask you to work in favor of making your effort the first of a series, and also toward discovery of less familiar modern works which, like your music, are living intensifications of contemporary experience—rather than endlessly repeated works of the past as important as they are to a full understanding of your art.

...Once again I should like to congratulate you on your superb television performance...











Film legends Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were friends of the Bernsteins. Bogart saw one of the conductor's later Omnibus programs and sent this telegram from Los Angeles. (The "Betty" Bogart mentions is Bacall, his wife; Betty Perske was her given name.)

IF MY HAT HAD NOT BEEN BLOWN OFF YEARS AGO, I WOULD TAKE IT OFF TO YOU. BETTY, WHO STILL HAS A HAT, THROWS HERS IN THE AIR. JUST WONDERFUL.

BOGIE.
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