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Brilliantly Bernstein: Beyond the Baton

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Festival Overview

American composer Leonard Bernstein, the creative force behind iconic works like West Side Story and On the Town, would have celebrated his 100th birthday in 2017. To mark his centennial birthday, festivities spanning six continents are being mounted from August 25, 2017, Bernstein's 99th birthday, through December 2018.

The Mann Center for the Performing Arts is thrilled to join in this international celebration with its fifth community festival, Brilliantly Bernstein. Beyond Bernstein's stellar career as a composer and conductor, this 20th century musical Renaissance man was a great educator, activist, and humanitarian. The Mann's six-month festival will explore this legacy through a series of arts initiatives, signature performances, and educational projects. 

Bernstein conducting


Upcoming Events*

Bernstein: Broadway & Beyond

The Art of Songwriting

February - November 2018

In the spirit of Bernstein, we will present a two-phase residency for young creatives-led by inspiring teaching artists-to compose new works that explore our Nation's history and its ongoing struggle to become a more perfect union. These works will employ elements of the libretto from Bernstein's musical 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as a foundation and inspiration.

Phase 1 will run from February through May 2018 at KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy, led by Darin Atwater, the Mann's commissioned composer for A Tribute to Leonard Bernstein. Darin and select KIPP faculty will work in tandem: (1) to guide scholar artists in studying the content and structure of the 1600-Penn libretto, and (2) to explore principles of song composition and instrumental arranging as tools that give poetic voice and expression to their thoughts about social justice, informed by their personal experiences. Building upon these same objectives, Phase 2 of this project will run for eight weeks during the fall term of 2018. In this phase, The Art of Songwriting residency will be expanded to include scholar artists at KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy and String Theory Charter School, led by teaching-artists Greg Corbin and Jawanza Kobie. At the conclusion of this second project phase, young creatives will spend two weeks in a music studio to record their compositions. Their works will be shared online via the Mann's social media platforms.

Klezmer Meets Jazz

Connecting Arts-N-Schools Series
April 30 - May 4, 2018

The Mann is delighted to announce that we are bringing our Connecting Arts-N-Schools (CANS) initiative to our festival partner schools once again with our 2018 presentation of Klezmer Meets Jazz. To date, CANS has reached more than 65,000 students citywide through a series of multidisciplinary programs in music, dance, and theatre. Klezmer Meets Jazz will explore the side-by-side development of two improvising music and dance traditions: Jazz & traditional Jewish Klezmer.

Word on the Street: Panel Discussion

June 2018

In the spirit of West Side Story's timely message, Philadelphia-based, community-focused leaders will come together in an open forum setting to discuss youth violence with students grades 9 - 12.  In this 90-minute panel, violence prevention advocates, educators, students, and community leaders will address topics of youth violence in Philadelphia and discuss solutions for change.

The Philadelphia Community Mass

August 11, 2018, 3:00 PM
Monumental Baptist Church

Inspired by Bernstein's Mass, the Mann Center will draw together a collective of Philadelphia-based composers, musicians, and directors from Philadelphia’s rich African American church community to create a community mass that explores anew the relevance of faith in our times. Featuring the Bernstein-inspired compositions of Dr. Rollo Dilworth, Ruth Naomi Floyd, Jay Fluellen, and Evelyn Simpson Curenton, the Philadelphia Community Mass will be presented as a full concert at the Monumental Baptist Church, sung by a collective of singers representing diverse communities in and around Philadelphia. Spoken libretto excerpts from Bernstein's Mass delivered by leaders from Philadelphia's civic and religious communities will punctuate the performance. This is a free event. Seating is general admission and is on a first-come, first-served basis. No tickets will be issued, however, advance registration is suggested.

West Side / South Side: A Photo Exhibition

Summer 2018

While Bernstein's West Side Story was inspired by the timeless Shakespearean work Romeo and Juliet, it broke new artistic ground with Bernstein's decision to explore a rivalry between two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds, one Puerto Rican, the other White, in his musical. Premiered on Broadway in 1957, Bernstein challenged us to wrestle with issues of immigration and community integration. He also shined a spotlight on the social disparities that often distinguish one neighborhood from another-as civic resources are proven to be distributed inequitably. 

60 years later, the West Side / South Side exhibition seeks to draw public attention to these still-prevailing issues and disparities. Featuring images produced by young photographers in three major American cities-Philadelphia, PA, in partnership with The University of the Arts; Washington, D.C., in partnership with American University and the University of the District of Columbia; and Atlanta, GA, in partnership with Fulton County Arts and Culture-this collection will be presented online as a digital exhibition and mounted in select gallery spaces in each city between May and September of 2018.  

*Event Schedule Subject to Change

Brilliantly Bernstein: Beyond the Baton is curated in partnership with Nolan Williams, Jr., the Mann's Festival Artistic Director and CEO of NEWorks Productions, Collaborative Artistic Partner
Brilliantly Bernstein: Beyond the Baton has been sponsored by:
Brilliantly Bernstein: Beyond the Baton is presented in partnership with:

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how the National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit

Our festival program would not be possible without the support of our Education & Community Engagement sponsors

Partners throughout The Art of Songwriting project include: Nolan Williams, Jr., Festival Artistic Director and CEO of NEWorks Productions, Festival Collaborative Partner, Darin Atwater, Composer, Greg Corbin, Teaching Artist, Jawanza Kobie, Teaching Artist, KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy, String Theory Charter School.

Connecting Arts-N-Schools is presented in partnership with Klezmer Specialist Dan Blacksberg as well as composer and Kimmel Center Jazz Resident, Jawanza Kobie.

The Philadelphia Community Mass is curated by NEWorks Productions and presented in partnership with Monumental Baptist Church. 

West Side / South Side: A Photo Exhibition is curated by NEWorks Productions and co-presented by the Mann, NEWorks Productions, and Fulton County Arts and Culture.