Regardless of your presentation subject matter, passion and practice make perfect.

Leonard Bernstein worked for days on his Young People’s Concert scripts and rehearsed them several times so that when he was talking it would sound as if he were just having a calm, casual conversation with the children.

Bernstein tried to anticipate everything while he rehearsed and refined his presentation scripts. He planned every word and audience reaction carefully. He developed his scripts to the point of anticipating multiple audience responses—even writing alternate sections based on how people might react to the previous point. He even made notations of where and how he would stand while on the stage. The New York Philharmonic archives contain copies of scripts that show as many as ten revisions (in addition to the rounds on his yellow pads), which is a reflection of the thoroughness of Bernstein’s thought process and rehearsals.

Bernstein wrote about his Young People’s Concerts experience in 1968 using words that can stand as his credo. “These concerts are not just concerts—not even in terms of the millions who view them at home,” he wrote. “They are, in some way, the quintessence of all I try to do as a conductor, as a performing musician. There is a lurking didactic streak in me that turns every program I make into a discourse, whether I utter a word or not; my performing impulse has always been to share my feelings, or knowledge, or speculations about music —to provide thought, suggest historical perspective, encourage the intersection of musical lines. And from this point of view, the Young People’s Concerts are a dream come true, especially since the sharing is done with young people—that is, people who are eager, unprejudiced, curious, open, and enthusiastic.”

This excerpt from the script for “What is Classical Music?” shows how carefully Bernstein and his team planned.

presentation notes from Bernstein

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