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Bernstein Press Release

Press Release


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                     

CONTACT: Brianna Taylor / 215-568-2525 /


Mann’s fifth consecutive community festival joins international celebration of Bernstein’s centennial birthday with a focus on his fight for social justice

Mainstage concert with The Philadelphia Orchestra to serve as centerpiece of the season-long festival

PHILADELPHIA (Feb. 28, 2018) – From his casting choices to the social statements made through his artistic works, Bernstein was a tireless advocate for social justice. One of the most important American musicians of his time, his commitment to social and political causes shaped his work and created an indelible legacy. This season the Mann will mount its fifth consecutive community festival, Brilliantly Bernstein: Beyond the Baton, to explore Bernstein’s legacy of musical excellence and his commitment to social justice, and to understand both in a modern context.  Through a series of events spanning the 2018 season, the Mann will contribute to the international celebration of Bernstein’s centennial birthday with its own unique examination of Bernstein’s legacy.

“We are thrilled to celebrate our fifth consecutive community, curatorial festival with a celebration of Bernstein’s 100th birthday,” said Catherine M. Cahill, president and CEO of the Mann.  “This year’s festival is an extraordinary opportunity to join with friends and colleagues throughout Philadelphia and the world in an international celebration of Bernstein’s remarkable life and career, while also creating a festival that uniquely reflects our commitment to artistic excellence and the Philadelphia community.”

Through a series of arts initiatives, signature performances and educational projects, audiences of all ages will be engaged with modern social justice issues through the examination of Bernstein’s life and works. Brilliantly Bernstein: Beyond the Baton is presented by the Mann through the PNC Arts Alive initiative and curated in partnership with Nolan Williams, Jr., the Mann’s Festival Artistic Director, CEO of NEWorks Productions, collaborative artistic partner.

Bernstein fought racism and other social injustices. From his casting choices that broke Broadway norms and the powerful statement against racism embedded in West Side Story, to his protest against the Vietnam War in MASS or his commentary on the role of black employees in the White House in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Bernstein resisted the forces of social injustice as he saw them in a time in which these types of statements were taboo in classical music.

"The son of immigrants, Bernstein was once passed over to lead a major national orchestra because he was considered to be ‘too Jewish, too American, and too homosexual’, and yet he persevered and ultimately became music director of the New York Philharmonic. His journey, the prejudice he faced, and the injustices he saw around him, shaped him as a person and an artist. NEWorks Productions is thrilled to extend our partnership with the Mann to develop this festival and to help people of all ages to understand Bernstein’s fight against social injustices,” said Nolan Williams, Jr., the Mann’s festival artistic director.

As a leading performing arts center, the Mann places great importance on Bernstein’s role in American musical history as the creator of lasting classical works and as the first American-born, American-trained conductor to rise to fame and lead an American orchestra.  As an organization dedicated to educating people on the role of the arts in our changing society and to serving as an important part of the Philadelphia community, the Mann sees great importance in shining a light on the various ways in which Bernstein fought racism and other social injustices.

The festival will aim to unpack Bernstein’s works, to understand them in new ways, and to spark a dialogue throughout the Philadelphia community and beyond.  The series of events will include a songwriting residency for young creatives, in-school performances exploring the intersection of traditional Jewish Klezmer music and Jazz, a community mass, and much more.  A mainstage concert, Bernstein: Broadway & Beyond with The Philadelphia Orchestra (July 18), will feature the world premiere of a companion piece to West Side Story titled South Side, Symphonic Dances by Composer Darin Atwater. (Full schedule of events below.)

The Mann’s 2018 community festival is under the direction of the Mann’s festival artistic director, Nolan Williams, Jr., one of the country’s foremost producers of inspirational arts programming, and Rhoda Blount, senior advisor for education and community engagement for the Mann. 

The schedule for Brilliantly Bernstein: Beyond the Baton is as follows:

The Art of Songwriting                                                                                     
Ongoing in 2018

Location: KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy, String Theory Charter School

In the spirit of Bernstein, the Mann will present a two-phase residency for young creatives led by inspiring teaching artists that employ elements of the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue libretto as a foundation and inspiration for students to compose new works, encouraged by personal experiences, that explore our Nation’s history and its ongoing struggle to become a more perfect union.  During the first phase of the residency, students from KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy will work with Composer Darin Atwater to explore the nuances of music notation concepts and foundational principles for vocal and instrumental composition and arranging. As the Mann-commissioned composer for A Tribute to Bernstein, Atwater brings a shared passion for engaging young creatives within the community. In phase two of the residency in the Fall of 2018, students from both KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy and String Theory Charter School will engage with the libretto of Bernstein’s 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with teaching artists Greg Corbin and Jawanza Kobie.


Connecting Arts-N-Schools: Klezmer Meets Jazz                                                 
April 30 - May 4, 2018

Locations: Global Leadership Academy, Creative and Performing Arts High School, St. Malacy’s, St. Cyril’s, The DePaul Catholic School                                         

The Mann is bringing its Connecting Arts-N-Schools (CANS) initiative to festival partner schools in 2018 with unique programming titled Klezmer Meets Jazz. The program, presented in partnerships with Klezmer Specialist Dan Blacksberg and Composer and Kimmel Center Jazz Resident, Jawanza Kobie, will explore the side-by-side development of two improvising music and dance traditions – traditional Jewish Klezmer and Jazz. To date, CANS has reached more than 60,000 students citywide through a series of multidisciplinary programs in music, dance and theater.


West Side/South Side: A Photo Exhibition                                                         
May – September 2018

Location: Online and Traveling Exhibit                                        

West Side/South Side: A Photo Exhibition seeks to draw attention to issues of immigration, social unrest and community integration; issues that are as relevant today as they were when audiences were first introduced to West Side Story.  This exhibition features photographs produced by young photographers in three major American cities: Philadelphia, PA, in partnership with 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 July 2018.  

Young People’s Concert Series: West Side Story                                                 
May 30, 
2018 at 10 a.m.
Location: the Mann                                                                                          

In partnership with Upper Darby Performing Arts Center and performed by Upper Darby High School students, the Mann will present the musical West Side Story to kick off the Mann’s free Young People’s Concert Series. Although this Bernstein classic premiered on Broadway more than 60 years ago, its themes of hope and love, as well as racial and ethnic social injustice, still resonate today. This event is presented free of change, but recommended for students grades 7 – 12. West Side Story is presented in partnership with Upper Darby High School, the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center and in cooperation with the Bernstein Family Foundation. To register, visit


Word on the Street: A Panel Discussion in Crescendo                                         
June 2018

Location: the Mann                                                                        

In the spirit of West Side Story’s timely message, Philadelphia community leaders will come together in an open forum setting to discuss youth violence with students in 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.  This event will be presented free of charge to students from select Philadelphia Schools.


Bernstein: Broadway & Beyond with The Philadelphia Orchestra                      
July 18, 
2018 at 8 p.m.
Location: the Mann                                                                                         

The Mann and The Philadelphia Orchestra will join in the exuberant celebrations of the 100th birthday of America’s first truly international conductor, Leonard Bernstein, with a tribute at the Mann. Bernstein was beloved in Philadelphia where he studied at the Curtis Institute and eventually conducted The Philadelphia Orchestra at the Academy of Music and at the Mann. The wide range of his gifts as a composer, conductor and pianist will be featured in a special night, led by Philadelphia Orchestra Assistant Conductor Kensho Watanabe.  The evening will feature a rich array of Bernstein’s songs and the world premiere of a companion piece to West Side Story titled South Side, Symphonic Dances, by Composer Darin Atwater.  South Side, Symphonic Dances explores the rhythms of today and the tensions when cultures collide, just as “Lenny” did in West Side Story.

The Philadelphia Community Mass                                                                   
August 11, 
2018 at 3 p.m.
Location: Monumental Baptist Church                                                               

Inspired by Bernstein's MASS, the Mann 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 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. The concert will be sung by a collective of singers representing diverse communities in and around Philadelphia.  The performance will be punctuated by spoken libretto excerpts from Bernstein's MASS delivered by leaders from Philadelphia's civic and religious communities. To register, visit


About the Mann

As one of the foremost outdoor music centers in the country, the Mann has a historical legacy of artistic excellence as a world-class entertainment destination presenting premier artists in association with AEG Presents. Each summer season, renowned symphony orchestras, iconic rock stars and the latest touring artists in indie rock, hip hop, R&B and pop take the stage here.  The Mann is the summer home of The Philadelphia Orchestra and presented critically acclaimed performers in every decade since the 1930s.  Located in the heart of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, the Mann hosts more than 200,000 visitors annually.  Signature concert experiences are surrounded by Philadelphia’s stunning skyline and include seats beneath the Mann’s acoustically acclaimed pavilion; picnics, blankets and music under the stars on its great lawn; and dining in Crescendo, the venue’s spectacular tented restaurant. For more information, visit

About NEWorks Productions

Celebrating its fifteen year anniversary, NEWorks Productions is one of the country's premier producers of inspirational-arts programming. NEWorks partners with leading humanitarian, educational, arts, and renowned institutions to curate and present curatorial festivals, concert and theatrical productions, special events, and other signature projects, that leverage the power of music and the arts for community engagement and social good. Since 2013, NEWorks has collaborated with the Mann to conceive and curate the Philadelphia Freedom Festival (2014), Liberty: Unplugged! (2015), Firebird: Spirit Rising (2016), and New Frontiers: Launch, Explore, Discover (2017). Other NEWorks partners (past and present) include: the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington National Opera, the American Cancer Society, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Georgetown University, Oberlin College, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, the Embassy of India, the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa, the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the world class Philadelphia Orchestra.