Acclaimed author and daughter of famed composer Leonard Bernstein, comes to West Ashley as part of for JCC Bookfest

from Staff Reports

Author, narrator, and filmmaker Jamie Bernstein has transformed a lifetime of loving music into a career of sharing her knowledge and excitement with others. Bernstein is the eldest daughter of legendary composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein and pianist and actress Felicia Montealegre.

On Thursday, Jan. 17 Bernstein will visit The Schoolhouse in West Ashley as part of the Charleston Jewish Community Center Without Walls’ Bookfest where she will offer a rare look at her father on the centennial of his birth.

In Bernstein’s deeply intimate and broadly evocative memoir, Famous Father Girl, published by HarperCollins, she details her youth growing up in an atmosphere bursting with music, theatre and literature. Her famous parents created an ebullient atmosphere that turned Bernstein into a lifelong cultural enthusiast.

In Famous Father Girl Bernstein mines the emotional depths of her childhood and invites the reader into her family’s private world. A fantastic set of characters populates the Bernsteins’ lives, including: the Kennedys, Mike Nichols, John Lennon, Richard Avedon, Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, and Betty (Lauren) Bacall. An intoxicating tale and an intimate meditation on a complex and sometimes troubled man, the family he raised, and the music he composed that became the soundtrack to their entwined lives.

Inheriting her father’s passion for sharing and teaching, Bernstein has devised several ways of communicating her own excitement about classical music. In addition to “The Bernstein Beat,” a family concert about her father modeled after his own groundbreaking Young People’s Concerts, Bernstein has also written and narrated concerts for audiences of all ages about Mozart, Aaron Copland, and Stravinsky, among others.

As a concert narrator, Bernstein has appeared everywhere from Beijing to London to Vancouver. In addition to her own scripted narrations, Bernstein also performs standard concert narrations, such as Walton’s “Facade,” Copland’s “A Lincoln Portrait” and her father’s Symphony No. 3, “Kaddish.” A frequent speaker on musical topics, Bernstein has presented talks around the world, from conferences in Japan to seminars at Harvard University. In Spanish-speaking locations such as Madrid and Caracas, Bernstein narrates in Spanish — thanks to her Chilean-born mother, who raised her three children to be bilingual.

In her role as broadcaster, Bernstein has produced and hosted shows for radio stations in the United States and Great Britain. She has presented the New York Philharmonic’s live national radio broadcasts, as well as live broadcasts from Tanglewood.

Bernstein is the co-director of a film documentary, Crescendo: the Power of Music — which focuses on children in struggling urban communities who participate in youth orchestra programs for social transformation inspired by Venezuela’s groundbreaking El Sistema movement. The film has won numerous prizes on the festival circuit, and is currently viewable on Netflix.

In addition to writing her own scripts and narrations, Bernstein writes articles and poetry, which have appeared in such publications as Symphony, DoubleTake, Town & Country, Gourmet, Opera News, and Musical America. She also edits “Prelude, Fugue & Riffs,” a newsletter about issues and events pertaining to her father’s legacy.

As part of the Charleston Jewish Community Center Without Walls’ Bookfest author Jamie Bernstein will be in West Ashley on Thursday, January 18, 7 p.m. at The Schoolhouse, located at 720 Magnolia Road. For more information, call (843) 580-8564 or visit

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