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*Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein (Junior Library Guild Selection)* by Susan Goldman Rubin - middle grades nonfiction book review
Also by Susan Goldman Rubin:

Magritte's Imagination

Jacob Lawrence in the City

Matisse: Dance for Joy

Counting with Wayne Thiebaud
Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein (Junior Library Guild Selection)
by Susan Goldman Rubin
Ages 10-17 178 pages Charlesbridge February 2011 Hardcover    

An inspiring biography, Readers will find Music Was It focuses on the early life of composer, conductor, and pianist Leonard Bernstein.

Bernstein grew up in the 1930s and Ď40s, eldest son of Sam Bernstein, a Jewish immigrant and successful businessman. Leonard was enraptured by music as a young child, listening to music over and over again on the familyís Victrola. He learned to play piano at an early age and showed much promise; from the beginning, Leonard knew that his passion in life would always center on music.

His father, however, discouraged his interest from the beginning. Music was a fine hobby, but certainly not an acceptable career. The conflict between father and son continued for many years.

Nevertheless, Leonard persisted with his musical career, taking piano lessons from the best teachers in Brooklyn, teaching others to pay for his own lessons. In his teenage years, when Bernsteinís family stayed at a cottage near a lake, Leonard discovered his talent for performing when his sister Shirley, their friends and he created musical spoofs to entertain the community.

Leonard and his father both agreed that a college education was critical before beginning any career. An excellent student, Leonard was accepted into Harvard University. Leonardís musical genius shone, despite the fact that he was barred from many music programs because he was Jewish. At this time he began making professional music connections and collaborating with others, including Aaron Copland, Adolph Green and more. He also developed a keen interest in conducting, inspired by conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos.

After college, Leonard struggled to make a living, taking on a variety of short-term musical jobs Ė playing piano, transcribing music, etc. He finally got his big break when he was offered a job as an assistant conductor for the New York Philharmonic, substituted for the conductor 1943, and became an overnight success.

Engaging from the very beginning, Music Was It is a fascinating look at an inspiring young man. His life example is a message to young people: that following your dreams, working hard, getting an education, and making connections is a recipe for personal success in almost any field. Numerous photographs bring Leonard and the people closest to him to life. The book concludes with a timeline, short biographies of the key people in his life, a discography of many of his musical recordings, bibliography, sources and an index.

Students with a passion for music, especially young piano students, will be inspired by Bernsteinís life. Highly recommended for students in grades 5-10.

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