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Leonard Bernstein - Chance Encounter
It may be hard to believe now but there was a point in time when newspaper coverage of classical music events was more pronounced than sports reporting. Today, the music coverage is still a part of print media, but perhaps the focus has shifted more to modern music rather than classical music. Back in the classical heyday, it was certainly deemed newsworthy when a twenty-five year old conducted the New York philharmonic for a live radio broadcast to an audience of millions. Stepping into the regular conductor's shoes at short notice to lead the nation's most important orchestra at a young age certainly made a lot of buzz in the media, and it certainly gave Leonard Bernstein's career a leg-up, not unlike Placido Domingo's debut at the Met Opera House.
The exuberance displayed by Bernstein at the podium mirrored the way he had been at a young age, and which would characterise his conducting decades later. His popularity surged from the success of that evening performance and its broadcast. He later forged a reputation as a champion of the music of American composers such as Aaron Copland, who could be said to be the American equivalent of Vaughan Williams, Edward Elgar or William Walton, in that his music conveys a sound that is quintessentially American. Bernstein also established a reputation as a composer, producing works such as West Side Story.
Bernstein's chance encounter with music came at the age of ten when an aunt sent an upright piano to his parents house for storage. Had it not been for that, who knows how things might have turned out? Sometimes chance encounters involving the briefest of exposures - such as seeing someone play the piano at the train station, or coming across a beautiful song on the radio - spark off a lifetime of interest and love of music.
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