Arts Desk

Check out stories by WRTI arts reporters Susan Lewis,  Debra Lew Harder, and Maureen Malloy. Arts Desk and Arts News Submission Guidelines

Library of Congress, Music Division

Conceived in 1949, West Side Story has a serious message that pleads for racial tolerance, delivered in unforgettable song and dance. People have been listening to that message, and humming the songs, ever since the show premiered on Broadway in 1957 and debuted on the silver screen in 1961.


Courtesy of the Bernstein family

As a 16-year-old “musical theatre kid,” I’ve always linked the name Leonard Bernstein with West Side Story, and those familiar songs that never fail to bring a smile to my face, from "America" to "Somewhere." I love them all.

Gift of Henny Durmashkin Gurko, Museum of Jewish Heritage, NY

A 29-year-old Leonard Bernstein stands next to Holocaust survivors—members of the Ex-Concentration Camp Orchestra. They’re at a displaced persons camp in Germany in May 1948, four years after their liberation from the Nazi death camps. 

The Accidental Baton Maker

Aug 21, 2018

Richard Horowitz’s customer list read like a who’s who: Zubin Mehta, Sir Colin Davis, Seiji Ozawa, Sarah Caldwell, James Levine, Sir Charles Mackerras, Klaus Tennstedt, Daniel Barenboim, and Leonard Bernstein.  He was a percussionist, who, quite by accident, came to craft batons for some of the most famous conductors of the world.

August 20, 2018. Our featured album is not one, but a trove of sixteen albums in a box set called This is Leonard Bernstein: His Greatest Recordings. Released for the 100th birthday celebration of America’s most multifaceted musical genius, this carefully curated collection reveals Bernstein as conductor, composer, and pianist.

August 20, 2018. Percussionist and bandleader Bobby Sanabria first saw West Side Story when he was a young boy living in the Bronx.   Leonard Bernstein's music floored Sanabria, who thought it epitomized the cool factor found only in New York City.  Years later, in West Side Story Reimagined, Sanabria presents Bernstein's enduring music from his own perspective as "a jazz musician, a Latin musician and native Nuyorican son."

Aretha Franklin Touched Us All

Aug 19, 2018

The “Queen of Soul” has passed away. Aretha Franklin died at her home in Detroit earlier today. She was 76. Her publicist said the cause of death was pancreatic cancer.

A bestiary in the Middle Ages was a book of illustrations of animals, each accompanied by a moral lesson.   Sir James MacMillan’s musical bestiary for organ and orchestra is informed by his Scottish background, different musical traditions, and a sharp sense of social satire. WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more.

10 Fun Facts About Conductors' Batons

Aug 15, 2018

When it comes to batons, one size does NOT fit all. Length, material, and handle are all a matter of individual preference.  Want to know what the professionals look for?  Here are ten facts about the tool that quickly fades into the musical landscape shaped by the person commanding it.

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