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A compendium of queer people in the 19th and 20th centuries // Drawn and researched by Michele Rosenthal

Leonard  Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein 1918to –1990

American composer and conductor, known for his years as music director of the New York Philharmonic, and for his works ranging from classical compositions to musical theater, most notably the music from West Side Story. Born to Jewish immigrant parents, he fell in love with music at a young age, and eventually studied it at Harvard. He was thrust into the spotlight in 1943 when he replaced a suddenly ill conductor for a nationally broadcast concert. From that springboard, he enjoyed a long and successful career, conducting symphonies around the world and composing his own works. He also hosted a series of televised lectures which popularized classical music throughout American homes. Though he had a number of affairs with men, Bernstein was happily married for 25 years. This changed in 1976 when he decided to live openly with his boyfriend, then returned to his wife a year later when she became ill. He wasn’t open about his sexuality until later in life, but Bernstein was often open about his liberal views, which included being anti-war, pro-Black Panther Party, and pro-rock and roll.

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