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Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music Receives Bernstein Gift

by Craig Urquhart
(as printed in the Spring/Summer 2009 issue of Prelude, Fugue, & Riffs)

The Family of Leonard Bernstein has given Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music the contents of Leonard Bernstein's Fairfield, Connecticut, composing studio.

"We are honored to receive this gift which follows a rich collaborative and professional relationship between the Bernstein family and the Jacobs School that began in the early 1970s," said Gwyn Richards, Dean of the Jacobs School of Music. "In a real sense Leonard Bernstein connected with our School and its leadership, and it is thrilling to know that the link with Indiana continues and is strengthened through this remarkable gesture."

"My father's artistic and educational connection with Indiana University was very strong," said Leonard's son, Alexander Bernstein. "He adored the institution and became close to the Dean, its faculty and, of course, its students. My sisters, Jamie and Nina, join me in celebrating the continuation of this relationship by literally bringing together two of the places in which he was happiest working. We cannot imagine a more fitting home for this exciting new representation of Leonard Bernstein's working life."

The Jacobs School plans to recreate Leonard Bernstein's working environment, which will contain the items in the collection and be used as a teaching studio for distinguished guests. Most of the contents of the room will be available to students, faculty and the general public, who will be able to examine the items that surrounded the great composer during a significant portion of his career.

Bernstein's long-standing relationship with the Jacobs School of Music began in 1970, with a one-month tour of Bernstein's opera Trouble in Tahiti in Israel to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Bernstein's first conducting there. At that time Charles Webb was Dean of the School, and Bernstein and the Webb family became close friends.
The School of Music-Bernstein connection intensified in 1981, when Webb received a call from Bernstein's Manager Harry Kraut who said, "Bernstein is working on an opera, A Quiet Place, and seeks a location where singers could learn parts quickly, and where he could discuss his compositions and receive feedback." Indiana University became that place.

While in residence Bernstein said, "It's extraordinary to have so many talented people in one place. I'm honored that such beautifully prepared students have taken time from their prepare my opera." Privately, he told Webb, "I hope you know what you have in your school." A Quiet Place was to be Bernstein's final opera.
In 1987, after winning the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, West Germany's most prestigious music award, Bernstein established the Leonard Bernstein Scholarship at the Jacobs School of Music. Two thirds of the prize money was contributed to the scholarship fund, an amount that was matched by funds from the late IU Chancellor Herman B Wells. The scholarship, established to further the education of talented students, is awarded to two Jacobs School of Music students each year.

In 1988, the Tanglewood Music Festival in Massachusetts was planning a celebration in honor of Bernstein's 70th birthday. They asked the composer which of his compositions he would like to see performed. He suggested his Mass. "The people at Tanglewood said they didn't have the resources to do that – it requires a huge orchestra, a jazz band, children's chorus, regular chorus, ballet dancers," said Webb. "So once again, Leonard Bernstein said, 'Why don't you call Indiana University?'"

After the performance – which involved 250 IU students – Bernstein reportedly said, "This is one of the greatest concerts I have ever heard."

"Then he went on to say, 'I don't just mean one of the greatest concerts of Mass, I mean of anything.' That was quite a statement!" said Webb.

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