Young People's Concerts
The Young People's Concerts at the New York Philharmonic are the longest-running series of family concerts of classical music in the world.
They began in 1924 under the direction of "Uncle" Ernest Schelling. Earlier Family Matinees had begun as far back as 1885 under conductor Theodore Thomas. Josef Stránský developed them further under the name Young People's Concerts beginning in 1914. They have run uninterrupted under this name since 1926. Ernest Schelling led his first Young People's Concert on March 27, 1924. By combining musical performances of the Philharmonic with lectures, Schelling set the stage for the program. During that time period, the show went on the road multiple times, travelling to Philadelphia, London, Rotterdam, and Los Angeles.
Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts on CBS 1958-1972
Leonard Bernstein brought the Young People's Concerts to a new level of attention when he arrived as conductor of the New York Philharmonic in 1958. Crucially, the first performance with him as music director, on January 18, 1958 at Carnegie Hall, New York, was the first of these concerts to be televised. Beginning in 1962, the Young People's Concerts became the first series of concerts ever televised from Lincoln Center. Bernstein conducted a total of 53 such performances, all of which were telecast on CBS and syndicated in over 40 countries. Bernstein continued the concerts even during a sabbatical season from the orchestra 1964-65. Although Bernstein left as music director in 1969, he continued to lead the Young People's Concerts as Conductor Emeritus until 1972. Bernstein's performances inspired generations of musicians and music-lovers, and twenty-five of them are now available on DVD. However, the airing of the program was halted in March 1972, with a final Young People's Concert concentrating on Gustav Holst's The Planets.
Originally broadcast on Saturday (episodes 1-7) and Sunday (episodes 8-15), the concerts moved to prime time for episodes 16-40. This was likely a CBS counter to Newton N. Minow’s speech referring to television as a vast wasteland. The series returned to Sunday afternoons (episodes 41-53). The concerts were also syndicated to forty countries.
|Episode #||Title||Original Airdate||Performers||DVD Release|
|1||What Does Music Mean?||18 January 1958||Sept. 2004|
|2||What is American Music?||1 February 1958||Aaron Copland||Sept. 2004|
|3||What is Orchestration?||8 March 1958||Sept. 2004|
|4||What Makes Music Symphonic?||13 December 1958||Sept. 2004|
|5||What is Classical Music?||24 January 1959||Sept. 2004|
|6||Humor in Music||28 February 1959||Sept. 2004|
|7||What is a Concerto?||28 March 1959||John Corigliano Sr.; John Wummer; John Bernstein||Sept. 2004|
|8||Who is Gustav Mahler||7 February 1960||Reri Grist; Helen Raab; William Lewis||Sept. 2004|
|9||Young Performers No. 1||6 March 1960||Daniel Domb; Kenneth Schermerhorn; Barry Finclair; Stefan B. Mengelberg; Alexandra Wager||Nov. 2013|
|10||Unusual Instruments of Present, Past, and Future||27 March 1960||New York Pro Musica; Noah Greenberg; Vladimir Ussachevsky; Anita Darian||Nov. 2013|
|11||The Second Hurricane||24 April 1960||The High School of Music & Art|
|12||Overtures and Preludes||8 January 1961||Nov. 2013|
|13||Aaron Copland Birthday Party||12 February 1961||Aaron Copland; William Warfield||Nov. 2013|
|14||Young Performers No. 2||19 March 1961||Lynn Harrell; Elyakum Shapirra; Jung-Ja Kim; Russell Stanger; Veronica Tyler; Gregory Millar; Henry Chapin||Nov. 2013|
|15||Folk Music in the Concert Hall||9 April 1961||Marni Nixon||Sept. 2004|
|16||What is Impressionism?||23 November 1961||Sept. 2004|
|17||The Road to Paris||18 January 1962||Zara Nelsova||Nov. 2013|
|18||Happy Birthday, Igor Stravinsky||26 March 1962||Sept. 2004|
|19||Young Performers No. 3||14 April 1962||Seiji Ozawa; Gary Karr; Maurice Peress; John Canarina; Ruth & Naomi Segal; Paula Robison; Paul Green; Tony Cirone; David Hopper||Nov. 2013|
|20||The Sound of a Hall||21 November 1962||John Corigliano, Sr.; Frank Gullino; Joseph Bernstein; William Dembinsky||Nov. 2013|
|21||What is a Melody?||21 December 1962||Sept. 2004|
|22||Young Performers No. 4||15 January 1963||Joan Weiner; Yuri Krasnopolsky; Claudia Hoca; Zoltán Rozsnyai; Pamela Paul; Serge Fournier; André Watts||Nov. 2013|
|23||The Latin American Spirit||8 March 1963||Netania Davrath||Sept. 2004|
|24||A Tribute to Teachers||29 November 1963||Nov. 2013|
|25||Young Performers No. 5||23 December 1963||Heidi Lehwalder; Amos Eisenberg; Weldon Berry, Jr.; Claudio Abbado; Shulamith Ran; Pedro Calderon; Stephen E. Kates; Zdeněk Košler||Nov. 2013|
|26||The Genius of Paul Hindemith||23 February 1964||Nov. 2013|
|27||Jazz in the Concert Hall||11 March 1964||Gunther Schuller; Aaron Copland||Sept. 2004|
|28||What is Sonata Form?||6 November 1964||Veronica Tyler||Sept. 2004|
|29||Farewell to Nationalism||30 November 1964||Nov. 2013|
|30||Young Performers No. 6||28 January 1965||Patricia Michaelian; James Boswell||Nov. 2013|
|31||A Tribute to Sibelius||19 February 1965||Sergiu Luca||Sept. 2004|
|32||Musical Atoms: A Study of Intervals||29 November 1965||Sept. 2004|
|33||The Sound of an Orchestra||14 December 1965||Sept. 2004|
|34||A Birthday Tribute to Shostakovich||5 January 1966||Sept. 2004|
|35||Young Performers No. 7||22 February 1966||Paul Schoenfeld; David Oei; Horacio Gutiérrez; James DePreist; Jacques Houtmann; Edo de Waart||Nov. 2013|
|36||What Is a Mode?||23 November 1966||Sept. 2004|
|37||Young Performers No. 8||27 January 1967||Elmar Oliveira; Mark Salkind; Fred Alston; Donald Green; Juan Pablo Izquierdo; Sylvia Caduff; George Reid; Young Uck Kim||Nov. 2013|
|38||Charles Ives: American Pioneer||23 February 1967||Nov. 2013|
|39||Alumni Reunion||19 April 1967||Stephen E. Kates; Veronica Tyler; André Watts||Nov. 2013|
|40||A Toast to Vienna in ¾ Time||25 December 1967||Christa Ludwig; Walter Berry||Sept. 2004|
|41||Forever Beethoven||28 January 1968||Joseph Kalichstein; Paul Capolongo||Nov. 2013|
|42||Young Performers No. 9||31 March 1968||Lawrence Foster; Alois Springer; Martin and Steven Vann; Helen Quach, Michael DeTemple||Nov. 2013|
|43||Quiz-Concert: How Musical Are You?||26 May 1968||Sept. 2004|
|44||Fantastic Variations (Don Quixote)||25 December 1968||Nov. 2013|
|45||Bach Transmogrified||27 April 1969||Nov. 2013|
|46||Berlioz Takes a Trip||25 May 1969||Sept. 2004|
|47||Two Ballet Birds||14 September 1969||Sept. 2004|
|48||Fidelio: A Celebration of Life||29 March 1970||Forest Warren; Anita Darian; Howard Ross; David Cumberland||Sept. 2004|
|49||The Anatomy of a Symphony Orchestra||24 May 1970||Nov. 2013|
|50||A Copland Celebration||27 December 1970||Stanley Drucker||Nov. 2013|
|51||Thus Spake Richard Strauss||4 April 1971||Nov. 2013|
|52||Liszt and the Devil||13 February 1972||Nov. 2013|
|53||Holst: The Planets||26 March 1972||Nov. 2013|
Kultur International Films released a nine DVD set with 25 of the 53 concerts in September 2004. A release of a nine DVD set with other 27 episodes follows in November 2013.
Young People's Concerts After Bernstein
Each season, several different conductors led the Young People's Concerts. Michael Tilson Thomas became a regular during the 1970s, but other conductors included figures like Erich Leinsdorf, Pierre Boulez, Igor Buketoff, Zubin Mehta, Aaron Copland, and later Kurt Masur, Leonard Slatkin, and André Previn.
Currently, the New York Philharmonic presents four Young People's Concerts each season, in addition to concerts on tour, most recently in Hong Kong on February 17, 2008. In New York, Delta David Gier is conductor and host - the first person to lead all such concerts in a season since 1952. Each season is themed as a unit - for instance the four Ages of Music - and the live performance is complemented by live images projected on a large screen, in addition to actors, dancers, and singers who help bring themes to life. Noted playwright Tom Dulack scripts the concerts. Each concert is preceded by Kidzone Live, an interactive music fair engaging over 1000 children in the themes of the concert with hands-on activities on all four level of the lobby of Avery Fisher Hall.
In 2005, the New York Philharmonic initiated a sister series called Very Young People's Concerts, performed by an ensemble of eight to ten musicians of the Philharmonic at Merkin Concert Hall. Children arrive for musical games played with individual musicians, then sit down for a 30-minute concert featuring a story set to a major piece of music, like one of The Four Seasons of Vivaldi, or a portion of Maurice Ravel's String Quartet in F. Children try small string instruments before they leave. The Very Young People's Concerts also sell out on subscription.
- Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts. Edited by Jack Gottlieb. New York: Doubleday, 1970.
- Olsen, Kathleen A. The Contributions of Leonard Bernstein to Music Education and Audience Development. Master’s Thesis from The Crane School of Music, Potsdam New York, 2009. 
- Schonberg, Harold C. “Bernstein Offers a Lesson in Music”, New York Times, 19 January 1958, page 81.