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Indiana University Offers Virtual Course on Leonard Bernstein

Posted December 20, 2023

Jacobs School of Music offers virtual course on Leonard Bernstein


While audiences can now watch the new film Maestro, director and actor Bradley Cooper’s homage to Leonard Bernstein, on Netflix, the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music is completing preparation for the second iteration of its online class Leonard Bernstein: The Man, His Music and His Mission.

A virtual, self-paced course that offers an exploration into the extraordinary life of one of the world’s most impactful and iconic artists, the class is now open. The four modules comprising this course for learners of all kinds include rarely seen videos and exclusive interviews with Bernstein family members, colleagues and others.

Photo: Leonard Bernstein at the Jacobs School of Music in 1982. Photo courtesy of IU Archives.

“I’ve been working with the music and person of Leonard Bernstein for many years and have taught portions of the course to undergraduates as well as in-person to lifelong learners,” said lead content creator Constance Cook Glen, a teaching professor and director of the Jacobs Music in General Studies program. “So, offering the course in an online, asynchronous format was an opportunity to bring all of it together in one place.

“My favorite part of the course is talking about the music and its significance. Bernstein’s music is incredibly important as part of the 20th-century American legacy, and I love sharing it.”

The Jacobs School of Music received the priceless gift of the contents of the Bernstein’s Fairfield, Connecticut, composing studio from his family in March 2009. Among the more precious items are 39 Grammy nomination plaques, the desk where he wrote “West Side Story” and a conducting stool from the Vienna Philharmonic that is said to have been used by Johannes Brahms.


Early connection between Bernstein and the Jacobs School of Music

Bernstein’s history with the Jacobs School of Music is well documented. Jacobs Dean Emeritus Charles Webb received a call from Bernstein's manager, the late Harry Kraut, in 1976, inviting the school to participate in a one-month tour of Bernstein’s opera “Trouble in Tahiti” in Israel to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his first conducting there.

Photo: Leonard Bernstein works with music school students on his opera "A Quiet Place" during his residency. Photo courtesy of IU Archives.

“Bernstein suggested using performers who were the approximate ages of the characters in the opera—very young,” said Webb. “Harry had heard about our music program at IU and wanted both singers and musicians to take the production on a tour to Israel. When they saw it performed in Bloomington, they approved, and it embarked on the 12-15 performance tour.”

Several years later, Webb received another call from Kraut. Bernstein wanted to be in residence for two months on the campus of a major music school in order to compose at night and have students workshop his music the next day. He arrived in January 1982 with Kraut, his librettist for his opera “A Quiet Place,” Stephen Wadsworth, a cook and a chauffeur, and stayed in a condo on Lake Monroe.
“I was always fascinated by the way he worked and communicated with students,” said Webb. “I would just slip into rehearsals and sit down. Once, he was working with a girl who was singing the lead in the new opera, ‘A Quiet Place.’ He stopped her all of sudden and said, ‘Have you ever sung the role of Mimi?’ [from ‘La Bohème’], and she said, ‘No.’

“He went to the piano with no score, nothing, and did Mimi’s entrance with the music. He went on for 10 minutes playing and singing all the parts of the opera. We were all astounded. That encapsulated the enormity of his talent and the fact that he could do so many different things so, so well. He was truly a genius, and his was truly an amazing life.”


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