Leonard Bernstein was a singular American genius. One of the great orchestra conductors of the 20th Century, he was also a composer of hit musicals like West Side Story, as well as symphonies and ballets. He was a teacher and television personality — his Young People's Concerts introduced generations of children to classical music.
If you were listening to NPR 10 years ago this week, you might have heard this enthusiastic proclamation: "The wait is finally over for architect Frank Gehry, for the musicians and staff of the LA Philharmonic, and for all of Los Angeles. Tonight, for the first time in public, the orchestra plays its magnificent new instrument: Walt Disney Concert Hall."
Charlie "Bird" Parker was one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. In his brief life, Parker created a new sound on the alto saxophone and spearheaded a revolution in harmony and improvisation that pushed popular music from the swing era to bebop and modern jazz.
Two hundred years ago this week, Giuseppe Verdi was born in an Italian town midway between Bologna and Milan. On the occasion of his bicentennial, All Things Considered wanted to know what makes the great opera composer so enduring — why his work is still so frequently discussed and performed these two centuries later. The answer, says conductor and arranger John Mauceri, is that Verdi had a knack for making thorny topics accessible.
Musician Emily Bear has composed more than 350 pieces for the piano. She's recorded six albums, performed at the White House and Carnegie Hall, and worked closely with her mentor, music legend Quincy Jones. And get this: She's 12.
Since playing on John Coltrane's first release in 1957, drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath has participated in a number of landmark jazz records. Now 78, the musician is featured in a new trio session with players nearly half his age — pianist Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus and bassist Ben Street.
Jazz musician Vijay Iyer started playing the violin when he was 3, but when he was 4 or 5, he wanted to play another instrument: the piano.
"The piano was around because my sister was taking lessons, and so I just started messing on it and figuring things out little by little," Iyer tells Terry Gross. "I can't really pinpoint the beginning of it."