By Cassa Niedringhaus | Daily Camera
The chatter of hundreds of local third-graders filled the University of Colorado's Macky Auditorium on Friday as they awaited a Young People's Concert celebrating the late composer Leonard Bernstein.
After the CU Symphony Orchestra led with a performance of "Overture to Candide," Jamie Bernstein came on stage. Jamie Bernstein, one of Leonard Bernstein's three children, is an author and filmmaker and hosted the concert. It was one of dozens of events the CU College of Music organized during September and October to celebrate what would have been Leonard Bernstein's 100th birthday.
"Wasn't that music delicious?" she asked the schoolchildren. She described for them her father's meteoric rise to fame, when as a 25-year-old he filled in as the conductor of the New York Philharmonic, and she played a clip from one of his Young People's Concerts, which were broadcast on CBS.
She also told them about the time, when she was a child, that the famous composer Samuel Barber came to her home and told her and her siblings to call him "Sam Sam the Garbage Man," to which the third-graders in the audience responded with laughs.
Glenn Dicterow, a violinist and former concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, made a guest appearance to play Barber's "Violin Concerto" with the orchestra.
The Young People's Concert concluded with the orchestra playing three excerpts of music from "On the Waterfront," for which Leonard Bernstein wrote the soundtrack, to illustrate three themes from the film.
"That's a perfect example of how music can tell a story just as well as words can," Jamie Bernstein told the children.
After the concert, 8-year-old Levi Corwin of Mesa Elementary School, said he enjoyed both the concert and learning about Leonard Bernstein.
"It was super exciting," he said, "because some of the songs, at the end, there was a big boom."
Ayla Deweese, a 7-year-old at Ryan Elementary School, said she plays the piano and the violin, and she thought it was cool to see people play the violin. The music reminded her of Beethoven, she said.
"I think orchestras are an amazing social phenomenon," Jamie Bernstein said in an interview. "It's really stirring to see 80 people on a stage all working together, literally making harmony. It becomes like a template for a world that works. For young people, it's a fantastic experience."
She described her father's rise to fame coinciding with the popularity of television as a "magical coincidence" that allowed him to reach more people, and she said his Young People's Concerts were groundbreaking.
He was more than a composer or conductor, she said. He was an educator and activist, too.
"You would not believe how many people I meet, especially this year during the centennial, both audience members and members of orchestras, and they tell me, 'It's because of the Young People's Concerts that I fell in love with music and was first exposed to classical music, and it's because of your dad that I'm here today,'" Jamie Bernstein said, adding that she and her siblings have catalogued more than 4,000 events worldwide celebrating Leonard Bernstein's centennial. "This is what I hear over and over again."
This article originally appeared in the Daily Camera. Read the full story here.