The Young People's Concerts at the New York Philharmonic are the longest-running series of family concerts of classical music in the world.
They began in 1924 under the direction of "Uncle" Ernest Schelling. Earlier Family Matinees had begun as far back as 1885 under conductor Theodore Thomas. Josef Stránský developed them further under the name Young People's Concerts beginning in 1914. They have run uninterrupted under this name since 1926. Ernest Schelling led his first Young People's Concert on March 27, 1924. By combining musical performances of the Philharmonic with lectures, Schelling set the stage for the program. During that time period, the show went on the road multiple times, travelling to Philadelphia, London, Rotterdam, and Los Angeles.
Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts on CBS (1958–72)
Leonard Bernstein brought the Young People's Concerts to a new level of attention when he arrived as conductor of the New York Philharmonic in 1958. Crucially, the first performance with him as music director, on January 18, 1958, at Carnegie Hall, New York City, was the first of these concerts to be televised. Beginning in 1962, the Young People's Concerts became the first series of concerts ever televised from Lincoln Center. Bernstein conducted a total of 53 such performances, all of which were telecast on CBS and syndicated in over 40 countries. Bernstein continued the concerts even during a sabbatical season from the orchestra 1964–65. Although Bernstein left as music director in 1969, he continued to lead the Young People's Concerts as Conductor Emeritus until 1972. Bernstein's performances inspired generations of musicians and music-lovers, and all of them are now available on DVD. However, the airing of the program was halted in March 1972, with a final Young People's Concert concentrating on Gustav Holst's The Planets
Originally broadcast on Saturday (episodes 1–7) and Sunday (episodes 8–15), the concerts moved to prime time for episodes 16–40. This was likely a CBS counter to Newton N. Minow’s speech referring to television as a vast wasteland. The series returned to Sunday afternoons (episodes 41–53). The concerts were also syndicated to forty countries.
|Episode No.||Title||Original airdate||Performers||DVD release|
|1||What Does Music Mean?||18 January 1958||Sep 2004|
|2||What is American Music?||1 February 1958||Aaron Copland||Sep 2004|
|3||What is Orchestration?||8 March 1958||Sep 2004|
|4||What Makes Music Symphonic?||13 December 1958||Sep 2004|
|5||What is Classical Music?||24 January 1959||Sep 2004|
|6||Humor in Music||28 February 1959||Sep 2004|
|7||What is a Concerto?||28 March 1959||John Corigliano Sr.; John Wummer||Sep 2004|
|8||Who is Gustav Mahler?||7 February 1960||Reri Grist; Helen Raab; William Lewis||Sep 2004|
|9||Young Performers No. 1||6 March 1960||Daniel Domb; Kenneth Schermerhorn; Barry Finclair; Stefan B. Mengelberg; Alexandra Wager||Nov 2013|
|10||Unusual Instruments of Present, Past, and Future||27 March 1960||New York Pro Musica; Noah Greenberg; Vladimir Ussachevsky; Anita Darian||Nov 2013|
|11||The Second Hurricane||24 April 1960||The High School of Music & Art|
|12||Overtures and Preludes||8 January 1961||Nov 2013|
|13||Aaron Copland Birthday Party||12 February 1961||Aaron Copland; William Warfield||Nov 2013|
|14||Young Performers No. 2||19 March 1961||Lynn Harrell; Elyakum Shapirra; Jung-Ja Kim; Russell Stanger; Veronica Tyler; Gregory Millar; Henry Chapin||Nov 2013|
|15||Folk Music in the Concert Hall||9 April 1961||Marni Nixon||Sep 2004|
|16||What is Impressionism?||23 November 1961||Sep 2004|
|17||The Road to Paris||18 January 1962||Zara Nelsova||Nov 2013|
|18||Happy Birthday, Igor Stravinsky||26 March 1962||Sep 2004|
|19||Young Performers No. 3||14 April 1962||Seiji Ozawa; Gary Karr; Maurice Peress; John Canarina; Ruth & Naomi Segal; Paula Robison; Paul Green; Tony Cirone; David Hopper||Nov 2013|
|20||The Sound of a Hall||21 November 1962||John Corigliano, Sr.; Frank Gullino; Joseph Bernstein; William Dembinsky||Nov 2013|
|21||What is a Melody?||21 December 1962||Sep 2004|
|22||Young Performers No. 4||15 January 1963||Joan Weiner; Yuri Krasnopolsky; Claudia Hoca; Zoltán Rozsnyai; Pamela Paul; Serge Fournier; André Watts||Nov 2013|
|23||The Latin American Spirit||8 March 1963||Netania Davrath||Sep 2004|
|24||A Tribute to Teachers||29 November 1963||Nov 2013|
|25||Young Performers No. 5||23 December 1963||Heidi Lehwalder; Amos Eisenberg; Weldon Berry, Jr.; Claudio Abbado; Shulamit Ran (as Shulamith Ran); Pedro Calderon; Stephen E. Kates; Zdeněk Košler||Nov 2013|
|26||The Genius of Paul Hindemith||23 February 1964||Nov 2013|
|27||Jazz in the Concert Hall||11 March 1964||Gunther Schuller; Aaron Copland||Sep 2004|
|28||What is Sonata Form?||6 November 1964||Veronica Tyler||Sep 2004|
|29||Farewell to Nationalism||30 November 1964||Nov 2013|
|30||Young Performers No. 6||28 January 1965||Patricia Michaelian; James Buswell IV||Nov 2013|
|31||A Tribute to Sibelius||19 February 1965||Sergiu Luca||Sep 2004|
|32||Musical Atoms: A Study of Intervals||29 November 1965||Sep 2004|
|33||The Sound of an Orchestra||14 December 1965||Sep 2004|
|34||A Birthday Tribute to Shostakovich||5 January 1966||Sep 2004|
|35||Young Performers No. 7||22 February 1966||Paul Schoenfeld; Stephanie Sebastian;David Oei; Horacio Gutiérrez; James DePreist; Jacques Houtmann; Edo de Waart||Nov 2013|
|36||What Is a Mode?||23 November 1966||Sep 2004|
|37||Young Performers No. 8||27 January 1967||Elmar Oliveira; Mark Salkind; Fred Alston; Donald Green; Juan Pablo Izquierdo; Sylvia Caduff; George Reid; Young Uck Kim||Nov 2013|
|38||Charles Ives: American Pioneer||23 February 1967||Nov 2013|
|39||Alumni Reunion||19 April 1967||Stephen E. Kates; Veronica Tyler; André Watts||Nov 2013|
|40||A Toast to Vienna in ¾ Time||25 December 1967||Christa Ludwig; Walter Berry||Sep 2004|
|41||Forever Beethoven||28 January 1968||Joseph Kalichstein; Paul Capolongo||Nov 2013|
|42||Young Performers No. 9||31 March 1968||Lawrence Foster; Alois Springer; Martin and Steven Vann; Helen Quach, Michael DeTemple||Nov 2013|
|43||Quiz-Concert: How Musical Are You?||26 May 1968||Sep 2004|
|44||Fantastic Variations (Don Quixote)||25 December 1968||Lorne Munroe, cellist||Nov 2013|
|45||Bach Transmogrified||27 April 1969||Michael Korn; Leopold Stokowski; Moog synthesizer; New York Rock and Roll Ensemble||Nov 2013|
|46||Berlioz Takes a Trip||25 May 1969||Sep 2004|
|47||Two Ballet Birds||14 September 1969||Sep 2004|
|48||Fidelio: A Celebration of Life||29 March 1970||Forest Warren; Anita Darian; Howard Ross; David Cumberland||Sep 2004|
|49||The Anatomy of a Symphony Orchestra||24 May 1970||Nov 2013|
|50||A Copland Celebration||27 December 1970||Stanley Drucker||Nov 2013|
|51||Thus Spake Richard Strauss||4 April 1971||Nov 2013|
|52||Liszt and the Devil||13 February 1972||Nov 2013|
|53||Holst: The Planets||26 March 1972||Nov 2013|
Kultur International Films released Volume I on DVD in 2004 and Volume II on DVD in 2013. Each volume contains more than twenty hours of concerts.
Young People's Concerts after Bernstein
Each season, several different conductors led the Young People's Concerts. Michael Tilson Thomas became a regular during the 1970s, but other conductors included figures like Erich Leinsdorf, Pierre Boulez, Igor Buketoff, Zubin Mehta, Aaron Copland, and later Kurt Masur, Leonard Slatkin, and André Previn.
Currently, the New York Philharmonic presents four Young People's Concerts each season, in addition to concerts on tour, most recently in Hong Kong on February 17, 2008. In New York, Delta David Gier is conductor and host—the first person to lead all such concerts in a season since 1952. Each season is themed as a unit—for instance the four ages of music—and the live performance is complemented by live images projected on a large screen, in addition to actors, dancers, and singers who help bring themes to life. Noted playwright Tom Dulack scripts the concerts. Each concert is preceded by Kidzone Live, an interactive music fair engaging over 1000 children in the themes of the concert with hands-on activities on all four level of the lobby of Avery Fisher Hall.
In 2005, the New York Philharmonic initiated a sister series called Very Young People's Concerts, performed by an ensemble of eight to ten musicians of the Philharmonic at Merkin Concert Hall. Children arrive for musical games played with individual musicians, then sit down for a 30-minute concert featuring a story set to a major piece of music, like one of The Four Seasons of Vivaldi, or a portion of Maurice Ravel's String Quartet in F. Children try small string instruments before they leave. The Very Young People's Concerts also sell out on subscription.
- Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts. Edited by Jack Gottlieb. New York: Doubleday, 1970.
- Olsen, Kathleen A. The Contributions of Leonard Bernstein to Music Education and Audience Development. Master’s Thesis from The Crane School of Music, Potsdam New York, 2009. 
- Schonberg, Harold C. “Bernstein Offers a Lesson in Music”, The New York Times, 19 January 1958, page 81.