Seymour Bernstein

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Seymour Bernstein
Born (1927-04-24) April 24, 1927 (age 93)
OccupationPianist, Professor at New York University
Years active1942—present

Seymour Bernstein (born April 24, 1927) is an American pianist, composer, and teacher.[1] He is the subject of the documentary Seymour: An Introduction directed by the actor Ethan Hawke. Hawke describes Bernstein as a mentor figure.[2]


Bernstein was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, where he graduated from Weequahic High School in 1945.[3][4] He began teaching piano at the age of fifteen, when his teacher at the time, Clara Husserl, arranged for him to supervise the practicing of some of her gifted younger pupils. He soon had a class of pupils of his own. He achieved local fame as a performer, winning the Griffith Artist Award at the age of seventeen. During the Korean War, he gave concerts on the front lines and for military leaders. His concert career took him to Europe, Asia, and many parts of the Americas, and he wrote With Your Own Two Hands and 20 Lessons in Keyboard Choreography, which have been published in German, Japanese, Korean, and Russian.

Bernstein studied with Alexander Brailowsky, Clifford Curzon, Jan Gorbaty, Nadia Boulanger, and George Enescu. In 1969 he made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra,[5] playing the world premiere of Heitor Villa-Lobos's Concerto No. 2. He is the winner of the First Prize and Prix Jacques Durand at Fontainebleau, the National Federation of Music Clubs Award for Furthering American Music Abroad, a Beebe Foundation grant, two Martha Baird Rockefeller grants, and four State Department grants. He made a point of offering master classes and lecture recitals where his concert tours took him. When grant money allowed, he filled his suitcases with scores to distribute to teachers and students. He ceased performing in 1977, in order to concentrate on teaching, composing and other creative outlets; he told no one that his farewell recital would be his last.

Bernstein has composed music ranging from teaching material for students of all levels to sophisticated concert pieces. He performs as a guest artist with chamber ensembles and serves on the juries of international competitions. He maintains a private studio in New York City and is also an Adjunct Associate Professor of Music and Music Education at New York University.[6] On December 18, 2004, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Shenandoah University. In 2015, actor and filmmaker Ethan Hawke made a documentary about Bernstein entitled: "Seymour: An Introduction".[7]


  • Bernstein, Seymour (1981). With Your Own Two Hands: Self-Discovery Through Music. G. Schirmer Inc. ISBN 978-0793557127.
  • Bernstein, Seymour (1991). Twenty Lessons In Keyboard Choreography. Seymour Bernstein Music. ISBN 978-0793503728.
  • Bernstein, Seymour (2004). Monsters and Angels: Surviving a Career in Music. Manduca Music. ISBN 978-0634078378.
  • Bernstein, Seymour (2005). Chopin - Interpreting His Notational Symbols. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-0634098512.


  1. ^ Kay, Ernest, ed. (1985). International Who's Who in Music: And Musicians' Directory. Melrose Press. p. 78. ISBN 978-0900332968.
  2. ^ "Ethan Hawke on Mentorship, Artistic Identity and Directing 'Seymour: An Introduction'". The Takeaway. March 10, 2015. Retrieved March 12, 2015.
  3. ^ "Local Pianist To Play for 'Pops' Series", New Jersey Jewish News, January 25, 1963. Accessed December 19, 2019. "Seymour Bernstein, pianist, a native Newarker, will be soloist in a program of Rachmaninoff and Gershwin music with the New Jersey Symphony, Feb. 2 at 8:30 PM at the Mosque.... A graduate of Weequahic High School, and a winner of Newark's Griffith Artist Award as a boy, Bernstein attended the Juilliard School of Music, later becoming the only pupil of the noted pianist Alexander Brailowsky."
  4. ^ Distinguished Weequahic Alumni, Weequahic High School Alumni Association. Accessed December 19, 2019. "Seymour Bernstein (1945) a concert pianist and teacher. Documentary made about his life."
  5. ^ Tsioulcas, Anastasia (March 11, 2015). "Let Ethan Hawke Introduce You To a Fine Forgotten Pianist". NPR. Retrieved April 30, 2017.
  6. ^ Lagnado, Caroline (April 25, 2017). "Seymour Bernstein is Subject of Ethan Hawke Documentary". NYU. Retrieved April 30, 2017.
  7. ^ Brody, Richard (March 14, 2015). "A Portrait of the Artist as an Older Man". New Yorker. Retrieved April 30, 2017.

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