Leonard Bernstein-1The Omnibus television program of the 1950s and ‘60s has been called “the most successful cultural magazine series in the history of U.S. commercial television.” One of its most popular and innovative undertakings was a seven-part series—plus a bonus eighth performance—Leonard Bernstein made for the program between 1954 and 1958.

Now the Arizona Senior Academy is presenting those eight episodes on separate dates this summer in the Academy’s Great Room. The second, to be shown at 3:30 p.m. Thursday (June 23), is entitled “The World of Jazz.”

Critics have noted the “inevitably dated aspects” of the program, which was originally broadcast on Oct. 16, 1955. They point out that the jazz show includes just one African-American singer in an otherwise all white jazz band. But critic John Rockjwell notes: “In his persona Bernstein remained a ‘50s hipster, cool like Sinatra yet warmer and more overtly emotional.”

Rockwell adds: “So as early as the ’50s, when these programs were made, Bernstein was hardly a raw beginner. He was a fully formed musical genius, not yet crippled by self-doubt, compromise and the lure of European glamour. He was at his peak. Add to that his classic good looks and irresistible charm and you have a ready-made television star, not just a uniquely gifted musical explicator. In these programs he appears as a dazzling young man at the outset of a dazzling career.”

Later programs from the “Leonard Bernstein: Omnibuscollection will cover conducting, American musical comedy, modern music, J.S. Bach, grand opera, and a bonus performance of Handel’s Messiah.

Omnibus was created by the Ford Foundation, which sought to increase the education level of the American public. The show’s producer, Robert Saudek, pledged to “raise the level of American taste” with educational entertainment. The series won more than 65 awards, including seven Emmy Awards and two Peabody Awards.

Written by Mike Maharry, Academy Village Volunteer

More Info on attending an event
Academy Village is an active-adult community located off Old Spanish Trail six miles southeast of Saguaro National Park East. Its residents support the Arizona Senior Academy, a non-profit charitable organization whose mission includes offering free concerts and lectures to the public.

These events are held in the Great Room of The ASA Building adjacent to the Academy Village Community Center. Due to the popularity of cultural events, non-residents who wish to ensure priority seating are advised to make reservations by email at info@arizonasenioracademy.org or by phone at (520) 647-0980. To learn more about the Academy, go to www.asa-tucson.org.

Parking for visitors is in the lot behind the Community Center. All parking spaces in front of the Academy building are reserved.

Bernstein On Omnibus: ‘The World of Jazz’: June 2016
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