Imagine an infant lying in its cradle, discovering its voice, purring and murmuring MMM to itself


Bernstein reminded me that the word “education” is related to the Latin educere—“ to bring forth what is within”— and then added: “Though I can’t prove it, deep in my heart I know that every person is born with the love of learning. Without exception. Every infant studies its toes and fingers, and a child’s discovery of his or her voice must be one of the most extraordinary of life’s moments. I’ve suggested that there must be proto-syllables existing at the beginnings of all languages— like ma (or some variant of it), which, in almost every tongue, means mother— mater, madre, mère, mutter, mat, Ima, shi-ma, mama. Imagine an infant lying in its cradle, discovering its voice, purring and murmuring MMM to itself… […]

Whether teaching children or adults, Bernstein understood that loving and learning are inextricably linked, that real knowledge is a concomitant of the desire to know, and that music itself— a meeting of living creator and creative listener— is one of the most efficacious vehicles for teaching. As a conductor, Bernstein experienced the relationship between himself and his orchestra as that of a lover and his beloved. As he remarked at the conclusion of his 1955 Omnibus television broadcast “The Art of Conducting”:

“The conductor must not only make his orchestra play; he must make them want to play…. It is not so much imposing his will on them like a dictator; it is more like projecting his feelings around him so that they reach the last man in the second violin section. And when this happens— when one hundred men share his feelings, exactly, simultaneously, responding as one to each rise and fall of the music, to each point of arrival and departure, to each little inner pulse— then there is a human identity of feeling that has no equal elsewhere. It is the closest thing I know to love itself.”

~ Jonathan Cott, Dinner with Lenny: The Last Long Interview with Leonard Bernstein

Notes: Original Source – Brainpickings


  1. My sister and used to go to his Young People’s concert series when we were kids. His love of music, kids, opening up their senses to the layers and magic of music and orchestration have stayed with me to this day…

    Liked by 2 people

    • I would have loved to have had a single live experience.

      Above all, in every aspect of his life and work, Bernstein was a boundless enthusiast. In the course of my dinner conversation with him, he informed me that the word “enthusiasm” was derived from the Greek adjective entheos, meaning “having the god within,” with its attendant sense of “living without aging,” as did the gods on Mount Olympus.

      ~ Jonathan Cott, Dinner with Lenny: The Last Long Interview with Leonard Bernstein (Oxford University Press; January 8, 2013)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. i love this and so agree. in my teaching of kinders, i believe this exact same thing. it does not matter at all what i teach, other than a yearning and curiosity to know things and a love of learning.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Enthusiasm on display from 1989… BTW, the red wine stains are a nice touch.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. on occasion I have had that feeling—-it is unspeakably wonderful

    Liked by 1 person

  5. And so, who will be our most incredible Bernstein of peace in this world? Each of us, in concert?

    Liked by 2 people

  6. “loving and learning are inextricably linked…”
    Not living and learning?
    You know? You have a lot of Bernstein in you!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hmmmmmm….. he was great man

    Liked by 1 person

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