59+ Best Leonard Bernstein Quotes: Exclusive Selection

Leonard Bernstein was an American composer, conductor, author, music lecturer, and pianist noted for his accomplishments in both classical and popular music. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the U.S. to receive worldwide acclaim. He was one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history. Inspirational Leonard Bernstein quotes will inspire growth in life, make you wiser and broaden your perspective.

If you’re searching for the most famous quotes from musicians that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of Ludwig van Beethoven quotes, electrifying Jimi Hendrix quotes, and legendary Johnny Cash quotes.

Most Famous Leonard Bernstein Quotes

This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before. – Leonard Bernstein

To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time. – Leonard Bernstein

It is the artists of the world, the feelers and the thinkers who will ultimately save us; who can articulate, educate, defy, insist, sing and shout the big dreams. – Leonard Bernstein

I believe in people. I feel, love, need and respect people above all else, including natural scenery, organized piety and nationalistic superstructures. One human figure on the slope of a mountain can make the mountain disappear for me, one person fighting for truth can disqualify for me the entire system which had dispensed it. – Leonard Bernstein

When the thunder rumbles, Now the age of gold is dead. When the dreams we’ve clung to Trying to stay young, have left us parched and old instead. When my courage crumbles, When I feel confused and frail, when my spirit falters on decaying altars and my illusions fail — I go on right then. I go on again. I go on to say I will celebrate another day. I go on. If tomorrow tumbles and everything I love is gone, I will face regret all my days, and yet I will still go on. – Leonard Bernstein

Perhaps the chief requirement of [the conductor] is that he be humble before the composer; that he never interpose himself between the music and the audience; that all his efforts, however strenuous or glamorous, be made in the service of the composer’s meaning – the music itself, which, after all, is the whole reason for the conductor’s existence. – Leonard Bernstein

If you’re a good composer, you steal good steals. – Leonard Bernstein

I hate you, Richard Wagner . . . but I hate you on my knees. – Leonard Bernstein

Wine snobbery, of course, is part showmanship, part sophistication, part knowledge, and part bluff – Leonard Bernstein

It is hard to think of another composer who so perfectly marries form and passion. – Leonard Bernstein

I’m not interested in having an orchestra sound like itself. I want it to sound like the composer. – Leonard Bernstein

Even experimental composers, revolutionary composers, self-styled radicals are, in writing revolutionary music, recognizing the music that preceded them precisely by trying to avoid it. – Leonard Bernstein

We can all shut-up and go back to our caves. – Leonard Bernstein

Which of my Jewish roots do I follow? – Leonard Bernstein

Bernstein has been disclosing musical secrets that have been well known for over 400 years. – Leonard Bernstein

Our most emotionally active life is lived in our dreams, and our cells renew themselves most industriously in sleep. We reach highest in meditation, and farthest in prayer. In stillness every human being is great; he is free from the experience of hostility; he is a poet, and most like an angel. – Leonard Bernstein

Music, of all the arts, stands in a special region, unlit by any star but its own, and utterly without meaning … except its own. – Leonard Bernstein

I believe that man’s noblest endowment is his capacity to change. – Leonard Bernstein

It would be nice to hear someone accidentally whistle something of mine, somewhere, just once. – Leonard Bernstein

Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time… The wait is simply too long. – Leonard Bernstein

Elvis is the greatest cultural force in the twentieth century. He introduced the beat to everything, music, language, clothes, it’s a whole new social revolution – the 60’s comes from it. – Leonard Bernstein

In the olden days, everybody sang. You were expected to sing as well as talk. It was a mark of the cultured man to sing. – Leonard Bernstein

Technique is communication: the two words are synonymous in conductors. – Leonard Bernstein

Any asshole can write a tone-row. It takes a composer to write a tune. – Leonard Bernstein

When I am with composers, I say I am a conductor. When I am with conductors, I say I am a composer. – Leonard Bernstein

Mozart’s music is constantly escaping from its frame because it cannot be contained in it. – Leonard Bernstein

Mozart combines serenity, melancholy, and tragic intensity into one great lyric improvisation. Over it all hovers the greater spirit that is Mozart’s – the spirit of compassion, of universal love, even of suffering – a spirit that knows no age, that belongs to all ages. – Leonard Bernstein

I believe that from that Earth emerges a musical poetry, which is by the nature of its sources tonal. I believe that these sources cause to exist a phonology of music, which evolves from the universal known as the harmonic series. – Leonard Bernstein

The joy of music should never be interrupted by a commercial. – Leonard Bernstein

The most difficult instrument to play in the orchestra is second fiddle. – Leonard Bernstein

When the study of the arts leads to the adoration of the formula (heaven forbid), we shall be lost. – Leonard Bernstein

The 20th century has been a badly written drama, from the beginning. – Leonard Bernstein

The Rhapsody is not a composition at all. It’s a string of separate paragraphs stuck together – with a thin paste of flour and water… I don’t think there has been such an inspired melodist on this earth since Tchaikovsky… but if you want to speak of a composer, that’s another matter. – Leonard Bernstein

I have two answers to everything and one answer to nothing. – Leonard Bernstein

From New Year’s on the outlook brightens; good humor lost in a mood of failure returns. I resolve to stop complaining. – Leonard Bernstein

What [Louis Armstrong] does is real, and true, and honest, and simple, and even noble. Every time this man puts his trumpet to his lips, even if only to practice three notes, he does it with his whole soul. – Leonard Bernstein

Stillness is our most intense mode of action. It is in our moments of deep quiet that is born every idea, emotion, and drive which we eventually honor with the name of action. We reach highest in meditation, and farthest in prayer. In stillness every human being is great. – Leonard Bernstein

Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable. – Leonard Bernstein

A work of art does not answer questions, it provokes them; and its essential meaning is in the tension between the contradictory answers. – Leonard Bernstein

Children must receive music instruction as naturally as food, with as much pleasure as they derive from a ball game, and this must happen from the beginning of their lives. – Leonard Bernstein

The key to the mystery of a great artist is that for reasons unknown, he will give away his energies and his life just to make sure that one note follows another… and leaves us with the feeling that something is right in the world. – Leonard Bernstein

I think it is time we learned the lesson of our century: that the progress of the human spirit must keep pace with technological and scientific progress, or that spirit will die. It is incumbent on our educators to remember this; and music is at the top of the spiritual must list. When the study of the arts leads to the adoration of the formula (heaven forbid), we shall be lost. But as long as we insist on maintaining artistic vitality, we are able to hope in man. – Leonard Bernstein

The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm. – Leonard Bernstein

I’ve been all over the world and I’ve never seen a statue of a critic. – Leonard Bernstein

I can’t live one day without hearing music, playing it , studying it , or thinking about it . – Leonard Bernstein

Any great art work … revives and readapts time and space, and the measure of its success is the extent to which it makes you an inhabitant of that world – the extent to which it invites you in and lets you breathe its strange, special air. – Leonard Bernstein

You can sit there, tense and worried, freezing the creative energies, or you can start writing something. It doesn’t matter what. In five or ten minutes, the imagination will heat, the tightness will fade, and a certain spirit and rhythm will take over. – Leonard Bernstein

The gift of imagination is by no means an exclusive property of the artist; it is a gift we all share; to some degree or other all of us, all of you, are endowed with the powers of fantasy. – Leonard Bernstein

To be a success as a Broadway composer, you must be Jewish or gay. I’m both. – Leonard Bernstein

We musicians, like everyone else, are numb with sorrow at this murder, and with rage at the senselessness of the crime. But this sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather they will inflame our art. Our music will never again be quite the same. This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before. And with each note we will honor the spirit of John Kennedy, commemorate his courage, and reaffirm his faith in the Triumph of the Mind. – Leonard Bernstein

Music, because of its specific and far-reaching metaphorical powers, can name the unnamable and communicate the unknowable. – Leonard Bernstein

This must be the mission of every man of goodwill: to insist, unflaggingly, at risk of becoming a repetitive bore, but to insist on the achievement of a world in which the mind will have triumphed over violence. – Leonard Bernstein

I’m no longer quite sure what the question is, but I do know that the answer is Yes. – Leonard Bernstein

A liberal is a man or a woman or a child who looks forward to a better day, a more tranquil night, and a bright, infinite future. – Leonard Bernstein

Conducting is like making love to a hundred people at the same time. – Leonard Bernstein

Einstein said that “”the most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.”” So why do so many of us try to explain the beauty of music, thus depriving it of its mystery? – Leonard Bernstein

Success is all very well as long as you don’t inhale. – Leonard Bernstein

Life without music is unthinkable. Music without life is academic. That is why my contact with music is a total embrace. – Leonard Bernstein

It was an initiation into the love of learning, of learning how to learn . . . as a matter of interdisciplinary cognition – that is, learning to know something by its relation to something else. – Leonard Bernstein

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