2018 marked both the Academy for the Love of Learning’s 20th anniversary and the centennial of the birth of the 20th-century musical giant Leonard Bernstein. The Academy shares a deep history with Leonard Bernstein, and ultimately was birthed from an intense collaboration between Bernstein and Academy Founder and President Aaron Stern during the final decade of Bernstein’s life. Stern, then Dean of the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, had a profound discovery about learning while observing how music students learned music. From that discovery, Stern recognized that a restoration of the human capacity to learn was essential not only to the revitalization of music, but all of education and more generally, western culture itself. From this, Stern began to develop a body of work, pedagogy and learning methodologies that are now at the center of the Academy for the Love of Learning.

Stern’s approach to learning found its counterpart in Bernstein’s vision for a better world and a life-long commitment to sharing that vision through music. Stern’s clear conviction that by “taking the lid off learning, we can learn ourselves to a better world, individually and collectively” touched and inspired Bernstein deeply toward the end of his life. Bernstein invested in Stern enormously during that last decade of his life. Following Bernstein’s death in 1990, Stern developed further and implemented peripatetically, the methodologies he first began to explore while at the Conservatory and went on formally to found the Academy in 1998 to embody this burgeoning work.

Throughout 2018, the Academy for the Love of Learning celebrated its 20th year through the themes of “Reflection and Emergence.” In true Academy style, we celebrated with a question – a key question that Bernstein had during the last decade of his life: “Don’t we never learn?” Stern’s response then, as now, was “Of course we do! We transform!” Our 2018 events concluded with a grand concert and birthday celebration, Lenny’s Living Legacy, commemorating 20 years of the Academy on what would have been Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday. The concert featured special works from Bernstein’s repertoire performed by award-winning musicians along with stories of Aaron’s time spent with Lenny and stories of his personhood and musicianship. We thank all who joined us in reflecting on our history and celebrating the Academy’s emerging future.

The Academy stands now as a vibrant and vital organization that continues to be inspired by Bernstein’s vision for a better world, while actively finding solutions and developing practices aimed at helping us to become better at being human beings.