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West Side Story: The Creation of a Classic

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Last month, the Music Division presented its live webinar, “West Side Story: The Creation of a Classic,” featuring Senior Music Specialist Mark Horowitz presenting on the creation of the 1957 musical. Drawing on materials from the Leonard Bernstein Collection, the Arthur Laurents Papers, and the Oliver Smith Papers to illustrate his talk, Mark engaged attendees in an illuminating discussion of the collaborative, creative process of developing the musical from its earliest conception to its Broadway premiere. Music Reference Specialist Cait Miller also highlights digitized materials related to West Side Story from the Leonard Bernstein Digital Collection, and connects attendees with relevant research guides: Leonard Bernstein: A Guide to Resources and Musicals of Stage and Screen: A Guide to Resources. The webinar wraps up with a Question and Answer session led by Music Archivist Janet McKinney.

Steven Spielberg’s new film adaptation of West Side Story releases in theaters this Friday, December 10th. We hope that watching the recording of last month’s webinar will enhance your own understanding of the musical’s history and provide new insight as you watch the film. If you have any questions about the webinar or anything in the Library’s collections related to West Side Story, please send our reference librarians an email through Ask a Librarian!


  1. West Side Story is such a classic. I remember this movie having such an impact on me growing up. There are definitely challenges people have had to face when coming over to a new country as immigrants. This movie emphasized the division that people faced and how destructive that it could be. I did have the opportunity to see Steven Spielberg’s adaption and I thought it was great. There was a fresh new talented cast who captured their roles perfectly. I think my most favorite part was the cameo role for Rita Moreno as Valentina. Not only is she super talented but it definitely brought the nostalgia.

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