Ravinia Music Box – Celebrating the Legacy of Leonard Bernstein

Ravinia Music Box, Credit: Ravinia Festival
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William Shakespeare wrote it, “If music be the food of love play on”, and Leonard Bernstein did “play on”, gorgeous music, inspiring music, problem solving music and music to make the world a better place.  He spread the love of music far and wide, and Ravinia’s Music Box, part of the “Reach, Teach, Play” Program, was inspired by Bernstein’s love of all music and his skill in widely sharing his love and enthusiasm for music. Ravinia’s current President and CEO of Ravinia Festival suggested that the Ravinia Music Box experience is like an overture to any music offered.

RMB Exterior, Credit: Ravinia Festival

When I visited this space for Leonard Bernstein’s 100 birthday, I was captivated by the exhibition that documented Bernstein’s rise to fame and his many accomplishments. But the press sneak peek of the Ravinia Music Box was amazing.  It is unique,  beautiful, inspiring, and deeply moving.

The student Jazz Band entertains, Photo: B. Keer

A presentation by the movers and shakers who envisioned and realized the Ravinia Music Box included Ravinia CEO Jeffrey P. Haydon and special guests: former Ravinia CEO Welz Kaufman, author Jamie Bernstein, and BRC Imagination Arts Creative Directors Brad Shelton and Edward Hodge. Wonderful stories were told of how the idea for the presentation developed and how it developed, COVID-19 and all.

Telling the stories of how the Ravinia Music Box came to be, Photo: B. Keer

On Saturday, On Saturday, August 7, the Ravinia Festival and Jeffrey P. Haydon, its President and CEO, will officially unveil the Ravinia Music Box (RMB) and its immersive theater experience, titled Bernstein’s Answer, and fully open the experience center to the public. The RMB features an immersive,65-seat, wrap around 4D theater with a museum gallery space, created by BRC Imagination Arts, the experience design and production company behind the Rock &Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, and the Ryman Auditorium Backstage Tour in Nashville, among many other brand and cultural destinations. BRC worked closely with Ravinia’s previous President and CEO Welz Kauffman, whose creative inspiration for this project launched the decade-long collaboration with the festival’s leadership, board, staff, and donors, as well as Jamie Bernstein—the eldest daughter of the iconic composer, conductor, educator, and humanitarian, Leonard Bernstein. The goal of the project is to introduce, in an engaging, fun, and interactive way, new listeners to classical music, as well as to offer new insights to those who are already fans. Admission to the RMB will be free to concert goers at any Ravinia performance. The RMB will be open on all concert nights from the time the park opens until the concert starts. It will also be available for field trips during the school year.

Leonard Bernstein conducts, Photo: B. Keer

In celebration of this opening, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) performance that evening, Saturday, August 7, features an all-Bernstein program titled Unboxing Bernstein: A Live Revue, led by rising American conductor Teddy Abrams in his Ravinia and CSO debuts, with guest artists Morgan James, Sheléa, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Tony Yazbeck, and Vocality. Author and narrator Jamie Bernstein will also participate. The program features selections from Leonard Bernstein’s expansive catalogue of stage and orchestral works, including On the Town, Wonderful Town, Candide, West Side Story, and Serenade (after Plato’s ‘Symposium’).

RMBTheatre, Credit: BRC Arts

Tickets ($10-$125) are available at Ravinia.