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Furry Friends of Music: Leonard Bernstein and Honey

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It’s National Dog Day, which means it’s time for another post in our Furry Friends of Music blog series!

Leonard Bernstein is remembered and celebrated as a renowned conductor, a major composer, and a masterful educator, but there’s another side to the great musician: Bernstein the dog lover. Although there are far more stories that capture Bernstein’s love for his canine companions than I can hope to recount in this blog post, I will share just a few examples.

Bernstein with Felicia, Alexander, Jamie, and Nina. Photographer unidentified. (Music Division)
Bernstein with Felicia, Alexander, Jamie, and Nina. Photographer unidentified. (Music Division)

Bernstein’s family was used to him repeatedly coming home with an impulsively acquired puppy – a few Dachshunds (all named Henry), a Bichon-Frise (named Tookie, short for “Tuchus”), and a Sheltie called Honey. See Bernstein, his wife, and children running with Honey in a photograph from our online Leonard Bernstein Collection.

The Leonard Bernstein Collection also includes handwritten notes on the aesthetics of his pet dog Gaby’s “paw-raising prowess,” written ca. 1950. Bernstein seems to have written these brief notes on a blank page in a published copy of Stravinsky’s Poetics of Music in the Form of Six Lessons. He reflects on successfully persuading Gaby to raise his paw on the command “paw!” and notes that “Gaby does not merely lift his paw: he lifts it as high as it will go, with a movement rapid yet discreet, carrying with it a sweep of triumph executed with perfect delicacy.” Even when it comes to his pup, Bernstein writes with grace!

Bernstein’s affinity for dogs is reflected in some of his music manuscripts as well! The collection holds a trumpet score in the composer’s hand called Rondo (for Lifey) – Bernstein sent this copy to Judy Holiday, whose dog was named Lifey. In addition, the music and lyric sketches for Bernstein’s Slava! include an alternate title on the title page: Puk – Puk being Rostropovich’s dog!

The finding aid to the entire Leonard Bernstein Collection is available online for researchers to consult. Interested in visiting the Performing Arts Reading Room to research the collection in person? Contact our reference librarians with questions via the Library’s Ask A Librarian reference service.

Comments (2)

  1. So nice to see him enjoying his family.. Such a warm passionate genius one of my favorite composers and conductors

  2. I love hearing about our wonderful composers and their dogs. As a life long dog lover and owner it warms my heart to hear about other dog lovers. I have raised, Cocker Spaniels, miniature Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, Afghan Hounds, Bloodhounds, a Giant Schnauzer and Kerry Blue Terriers, plus a few of unknown lineage and we’ve loved each and every one of them. They all took a piece of our hearts when they left us. Thank heaven for dogs!

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