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A collection of quotes and thoughts by Leonard Bernstein on music, violence, will, time, pain, writing, lyrics, life, future, world, woman, communicate and stress.

30 Thought-Provoking Quotes By Leonard Bernstein, The Music Maestro

Quick Facts

Also Listed In

Famous As
Conductor (New York Philharmonic)

Born On
25 August 1918 AD

Died On
14 October 1990 AD

Born In
Lawrence

Died At Age
72

Leonard Bernstein was an American composer, author, music lecturer, pianist and conductor, regarded as one of the most celebrated music composers. Bernstein is considered as the greatest music composer in American history, and throughout his tenure as the New York Philharmonic director; he produced some of great musical experiences ever witnessed. Additionally, Bernstein broke the mould in more ways than one when he became a television personality by delivering lectures on the different aspects of classical music and it continued from 1954 till his death 1990. Some of his most famous works include the music for ‘West Side Story’, ‘Mass’, ‘On the Town’, ‘Peter Pan’, ‘On the Waterfront’ and  ‘Candide’ among many other compositions that made him the one of the most popular music composers of the 20th century. Other than being a highly skilled conductor, he was a gifted pianist and overall, an extremely versatile music maestro. Bernstein also wrote regularly on music and provided an insight into the finer aspects of music to a wide range of people. As was evident from his long tenure on television, Bernstein was a gifted orator and here is a collection of some of his famous quotes and thoughts. Let us browse through deceptively simple, sensible and inspirational quotes and thoughts by Leonard Bernstein that hold a world of wisdom.  

In the olden days, everybody sang. You were expected to sing as well as talk. It was a mark of the cultured man to sing.

- Leonard Bernstein

I believe that man's noblest endowment is his capacity to change.

- Leonard Bernstein

The joy of music should never be interrupted by a commercial.

- Leonard Bernstein

Mozart's music is constantly escaping from its frame, because it cannot be contained in it.

- Leonard Bernstein

Children must receive music instruction as naturally as food, with as much pleasure as they derive from a ball game, and this must happen from the beginning of their lives.

- Leonard Bernstein

The most difficult instrument to play in the orchestra is second fiddle.

- Leonard Bernstein

I can't live one day without hearing music, playing it , studying it , or thinking about it .

- Leonard Bernstein

Music, because of its specific and far-reaching metaphorical powers, can name the unnamable and communicate the unknowable.

- Leonard Bernstein

To be a success as a Broadway composer, you must be Jewish or gay. I'm both.

- Leonard Bernstein

A work of art does not answer questions, it provokes them; and its essential meaning is in the tension between the contradictory answers.

- Leonard Bernstein

The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm

- Leonard Bernstein

It is the artists of the world, the feelers and the thinkers who will ultimately save us; who can articulate, educate, defy, insist, sing and shout the big dreams.

- Leonard Bernstein

Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.

- Leonard Bernstein

A liberal is a man or a woman or a child who looks forward to a better day, a more tranquil night, and a bright, infinite future.

- Thinking and Writing in College, Leonard Bernstein

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

- Leonard Bernstein

We're neither pure, nor wise, nor good We'll do the best we know. We'll build our house and chop our wood And make our garden grow. And make our garden grow!

- Candide - Vocal Selections: Revised Edition Vocal Selections, Leonard Bernstein

Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time... The wait is simply too long.

- Leonard Bernstein

Life without music is unthinkable. Life without music is academic. That is why my contact with music is a total embrace.

- Leonard Bernstein

I'm no longer quite sure what the question is, but I do know that the answer is Yes.

- The Unanswered Question: Six Talks at Harvard (Charles Eliot Norton Lectures), Leonard Bernstein

I've been all over the world and I've never seen a statue of a critic.

- Leonard Bernstein

Music, of all the arts, stands in a special region, unlit by any star but its own, and utterly without meaning ... except its own.

- The Joy of Music, Leonard Bernstein

This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.

- Leonard Bernstein

To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.

- Leonard Bernstein

Music . . . can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.

- Leonard Bernstein

I think it is time we learned the lesson of our century: that the progress of the human spirit must keep pace with technological and scientific progress, or that spirit will die. It is incumbent on our educators to remember this; and music is at the top of the spiritual must list. When the study of the arts leads to the adoration of the formula (heaven forbid), we shall be lost. But as long as we insist on maintaining artistic vitality, we are able to hope in man

- Leonard Bernstein

Stillness is our most intense mode of action. It is in our moments of deep quiet that is born every idea, emotion, and drive which we eventually honor with the name of action. We reach highest in meditation, and farthest in prayer. In stillness every human being is great.

- Leonard Bernstein

The key to the mystery of a great artist is that for reasons unknown, he will give away his energies and his life just to make sure that one note follows another... and leaves us with the feeling that something is right in the world.

- Leonard Bernstein

Our most emotionally active life is lived in our dreams, and our cells renew themselves most industriously in sleep. We reach highest in meditation, and farthest in prayer. In stillness every human being is great; he is free from the experience of hostility; he is a poet, and most like an angel.

- Leonard Bernstein

You can sit there, tense and worried, freezing the creative energies, or you can start writing something. It doesn't matter what. In five or ten minutes, the imagination will heat, the tightness will fade, and a certain spirit and rhythm will take over.

- Leonard Bernstein

I believe in people. I feel, love, need and respect people above all else, including natural scenery, organized piety and nationalistic superstructures. One human figure on the slope of a mountain can make the mountain disappear for me, one person fighting for truth can disqualify for me the entire system which had dispensed it.

- Leonard Bernstein