Every parent knows that kids say the darndest things. But Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment keyboardist Jordan Rudess said the darndest thing to legendary American pianist, composer, conductor and educator Leonard Bernstein when little 8-year-old Rudess wrote Mr. Bernstein a letter.
Dear Mr. Bernstein,
How long do you practice? Can I have your picture? I am 8 years old. I think I play better than you. Do you want any advice?"
You gotta be impressed by Jordan's confidence, am I right? And, of course, all of his youthful innocence! Music Reference Specialist Heather Darnell recently spoke to Rudess about his now infamous letter to Leonard Bernstein in a guest post to In the Muse, the performing arts blog on the Library of Congress website.
"My mother didn’t really expect to have music in her family. So when I came around and started playing the piano, she was really, really happy, and she would tell stories about sitting on the steps outside the concert hall to listen to Leonard Bernstein playing piano or conducting an orchestra," Rudess told Darnell. "She really enjoyed it and shared that with me. Leonard Bernstein was definitely on my mind because of that.
"I don’t think at 8-years-old I was playing better than him. He was a pretty damn good pianist. Really so talented. The thing that is so fun about the letter being to Leonard Bernstein is that, like him, I have also crossed boundaries in my career. I started out as a classical musician, went to Juilliard at 9, then left when I was 19 and decided to do other things. I got into rock and progressive rock and eventually metal and lot of different stuff. And Leonard Bernstein of course was the king of crossing boundaries and working within whatever genre."
The story of how Rudess and Darnell got together for conversation is acually quite interesting; in a previous post, the letter was mentioned when pulled from the Berstein archive, and readers inquired about the author. Darnell did some research, and ultimately connected the dots to Rudess. And we think the Internet lasts forever! Lessons learned.