Leonard Bernstein, The Closeted Icon

Leonard Bernsteinn

Yes, Leonard Bernstein Is Another Icon In The Closet!

I used to say Leonard Bernstein was bisexual, but while digging deeper for this article I managed to drag out a full-fledged gay man. He was hiding deep down there under the cover of marriage and bisexuality. Getting confirmation like this makes me angry, irritated, exhausted, triumphant, happy and hopeful, all at the same time.

How many closeted icons are there? This is a task of Sisyphean proportions!

The only place where I’ve seen anyone of Bernstein’s family mention his homosexuality is in a letter from his wife to him, just at the beginning of their marriage. You can read it for yourself here.

It’s sad! Sad because being a gay man is nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing any child or sibling to the gay man should try to hide from the world.

Frequently, I see people say, “It’s not important; the music is important.”

You wanna know what that is? That is HOGWASH! Pure and simple and PERIOD!

Homosexuality is a deep part of who you are. Cutting it off is worse than cutting off an arm. You are still you without the arm, but who are you without your capacity to love and be loved?

Not Only an Icon, but Also an Educator

We know he was a conductor and a composer, but how many are aware of Bernstein’s impact as an educator?

Leonard Bernstein lived for music. It was his bread and butter, and he wanted everyone to wake up to its wonder. He started teaching, preferably young people. He coined something he called Artful Learning.

The concept of Artful Learning is based on Bernstein’s philosophy that the arts strengthen learning and would do well incorporated into all academic subjects. The arts should be used as vehicles for learning, as arts engage and stimulate creativity. Even consuming art expands your horizons. There are countless studies on that.

This video is just one example of how Artful Learning is used. Also, note that not one girl, but three boys, get to have a say on how they experience it, topping off with a grown guy at the end.


I like how it shows Bernstein’s educational philosophy in action, BUT… this is NOT equal representation! And it does make an impact on girls (and boys!!) watching it. It does, it does. IT DOES! Negatively.

I think Bernstein’s way is what the world needs today, more education through art – Artful Learning. We need learning through art and with art, to have learning become an art form in and of itself.

With Human Rights Recitals, I work in this tradition! I see my singing videos as educational artwork. They are miniature lectures in visual form, with my singing as audio. (At YouTube ⇒)

Educating With Culture

Leonard Bernstein

Teaching non violence too.

Bernstein was firmly rooted in being a Jew. As a composer he frequently used Jewish themes. When he got older he referred to himself as a “rabbi,” The word rabbi originates from the Hebrew. It means teacher, which I find very apt. He was a teacher and a scholar with a fervent mission to pass on his knowledge and curiosity to coming generations.

He knew that the spirit of artistic creativity through the visual arts, music, theater, and dance would improve a student’s reading, writing and math skills. There are so many studies today proving Bernstein was right. The arts play a vital role in influencing brain development and performance. Arts are looked upon as a decoration of life, while in reality they seem central to the way we process and learn on a neurological level.

An Example

In 2008, I saw the Swedish movie Patrik 1.5, a lovely film about two gay men adopting a child.
The film was a great success with Swedish audiences, and the 18-year-old I brought with me thought it was super! She said it pointed to so many things you never think of as a heterosexual:

  • How not to get invited to the block party.
  • The neighbor’s kids screaming the derogatory “FAGOTT” all year round!
  • The acidic nurse working in the small district doctor’s office.

I was glad it became so clear to her, all those “little things” that are stacked up high when you are an LGBT person. They accumulate like drops of acid that appear in newspapers and in the words from neighbors, family and friends to be stored inside, dripping on us while we are the ones who are expected to understand  “them”!

I was pleased that a movie with heart and humor could step straight into an 18-year-old young woman’s awareness and teach her something about someone else’s life.
We obviously need culture, because culture can reveal much that no sententious secondary education in the world can produce! That, in turn, confirms everything Leonard Bernstein wanted to teach us through Artful Learning. Watch the trailer at YouTube:

One Of Many Gay Men

Leonard Bernstein is only one of many gay men heavily influencing society while the LGBT aspect of their lives is shadowed in the closet.

For 2016, I might dedicate a full month (four creations) to some other important composers, all men and all gay! Follow Human Rights Recitals on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to make sure you get notice on when that happens! 🙂

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