The Jewish Music of Leonard Bernstein

Date: Apr 22, 2021 - Apr 22, 2021

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Sponsor: The Library

Location: Online

Category: Library Events

Part of Musical Journeys with The Library of JTS

An online discussion with Hazzan David F. Tilman

Thursday, April 22, 2021, at 7:30 p.m. ET

This series is co-sponsored by The JTS Library and the Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience at The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.

Join Hazzan David F. Tilman to examine the works of Leonard Bernstein using a rich variety of musical recordings and archival photographs.

Maestro Leonard Bernstein was an incredibly versatile musician, known for his major contributions as world class composer in a multiplicity of styles, virtuoso pianist, and orchestra conductor of the highest caliber. 

Born into an orthodox Jewish home, Maestro Bernstein was raised in a Conservative synagogue in the Boston area. He was educated at Congregation Mishkan Tefila, Boston Latin School, Harvard University, Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, and at the Tanglewood Music Center.

Maestro Bernstein put his Jewish identity in many of his compositions. At least 20 Bernstein works contain Jewish musical elements, motifs, themes, contents, and theology, reflecting his upbringing, education, and identity. This lecture examines several of these works, Hashkiveinu, Yigdal, Simchu Na, and even West Side Story, Candide, and MASS.


Dr. David Kraemer, Joseph J. and Dora Abbell Librarian and professor of Talmud and Rabbinics, JTS, will serve as moderator.

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About Hazzan David F. Tilman

Hazzan David F. Tilman has earned degrees from Columbia College, the H. L. Miller Cantorial School, and the Juilliard School, majoring in Choral Conducting. At Juilliard, he was a conducting student of Abraham Kaplan, conductor of the choruses on the premiere recordings of Leonard Bernstein’s choral/orchestral compositions. In May 2016, Hazzan Tilman was awarded the Doctor of Hebrew Letters degree, honoris causa, from Gratz College, and in 2008, the Doctor of Music degree, honoris causa, from The Jewish Theological Seminary. He is Hazzan Emeritus of Beth Sholom Congregation of Elkins Park, retiring in 2011 after 36 years. His Beth Sholom choirs toured Israel, Prague, Budapest, Krakow, Warsaw, and Havana. Hazzan Tilman served as Music Director/Rosh Musica at three Camps Ramah and at the Brandeis Bardin Institute in Simi Valley, California. He has completed a five-year tenure as Associate Professor at the H. L. Miller Cantorial School.

Since August 2011, Hazzan Tilman is choral director of Shir KI, the adult choir of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, Elkins Park, Pa, and also serves as pastoral outreach professional. He has conducted, lectured, and sung throughout the USA, in Santiago, Berlin, Munich, Prague, Warsaw, and Havana. He is conductor of the Delaware Valley Cantors Assembly Ensemble. In 2015, he lectured on the stage of Verizon Hall on the Bernstein Mass, prior to the Philadelphia Orchestra performances. In May 2017, Hazzan Tilman presented the pre-concert lecture on the Verizon Hall stage introducing the Philadelphia Orchestra’s performances of the Bernstein Jeremiah Symphony., and he has lectured on the Bernstein Kaddish Symphony before the Philadelphia Orchestra’s presentation of the composer’s Third Symphony.

Hazzan Tilman has been speaking about the Leonard Bernstein Centennial, specifically the Jewish content of Bernstein’s compositions, for three years. Hazzan Tilman served as creative consultant for the Bernstein Centennial Exhibit mounted by the National Museum of American Jewish His-tory. In May 2018 he conducted a performance of the Bernstein Chichester Psalms, featuring a chorus of 175 singers on the Verizon Hall stage. He returned to Verizon Hall in February 2019, conducting a large 175 voice chorus and Cantorial soloists. He is now Music Director of the Sing Hallelujah Concert Series at Verizon Hall, bringing together 175 singers reaching out to the Jewish community of the Delaware Valley.