We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jamie Bernstein, daughter of the famed composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein. She launches her new book this June titled Famous Father Girl (Harper Collins), which delves into her father’s legacy and her own life in the spotlight as part of the most prominent American musical family of the 20th century.
When we read the pre-copy of Famous Father Girl, it details Jamie Bernstein’s unveiled look at life in the limelight and how her unique upbringing made her the strong person she is today. The famous family’s glittering circles looped in household names like the Kennedys, Mike Nichols, John Lennon, Richard Avedon, Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, and Betty (Lauren) Bacall.
Now, when she’s not on stage, Jamie is living her best life—enjoying her personal 25-minute morning exercise routine, hiking the Utah wilderness, and drinking in the companionship of friends, family, and collaborators.
Jamie Bernstein made the decision to avoid pursuing a career as a musician, despite being raised in one of the most prominent musical families of the 20th century. “It took me a long time to give up on being a musician…” she said. “My personal solution was talk/write about music, rather than make it with my own body.”
In this vein, Jamie has become a concert narrator. On stage, she has a singular presence, and uses her passion and creativity to truly engage with audiences, and communicate her excitement about the world of music.
But music isn’t her only passion. When asked what she hoped people would remember about her artistry, she merely said: “That I could put a good sentence together.”
On Music Education
One of Jamie’s favorite music projects is El Sistema, a Venezuelan movement with the motto “Music for Social Change.” The program provides free classical music education for impoverished children, and it has over 400 centers and 700,000 participating musicians.
Jamie sees this style of music education as a good thing – and believes that it is inevitable that something like it will boom more in the United States. As she said in our interview: “I strongly believe that the El Sistema movement…now has such a strong presence in the US that it is creating entire new communities of musicians and music lovers. It will take 15 or 20 years to kick in, but I think the bump will come.”
She is also a strong proponent of individual artists engaging with their community, and avoiding “Ivory Tower” artistry. As an example, she uses her father who was well-known as a “citizen artist” who engaged critically with his community, rather than disengaging from it.
Celebrate the Centennial of Leonard Bernstein this Summer!
August 25, 2018 will mark Leonard Bernstein’s centennial birthday with more than 3,000 celebrations happening globally. Find the one closest to you!
Remember to order Jamie’s book Famous Father Girl on sale this June.