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Seymour: An Introduction *****


I suspect most of us have never heard of Seymour Bernstein.

Although I enjoy classical music, I did not know his name nor his work, until last night.

Thanks to the actor Ethan Hawke, however, Bernstein may gain some recognition outside of a small circle of people in the music world. In his first work as a movie director — this a documentary – Hawke has given us a gem.

Briefly, Seymour Bernstein is a pianist and a composer who was widely praised for his playing and his concerts but who stopped giving concerts and turned to the teaching of piano at the age of 50. Now 80 years old, Bernstein is a treasure.

In the film Seymour: An Introduction, we learn much about this man (tho not everything). What is portrayed is a man who loves music, loves the piano, loves to teach and who has spent his entire life thinking about the connections between music and living one’s life.

Not only is he a master at the craft of playing, he is equally (more?) impressive as a teacher. Watching him ‘work’ with his students, whether it’s in his small, cramped one room apartment in NYC or giving master classes in larger venues, is a lesson for anyone who is a teacher or who has something to offer others.

His teaching is filled with patience, persistence, and a deep knowledge of music; plus, it is infused with his views about life. He is not shy about making those views part of his teaching, and it is clear from what we learn from his students that his imparting a philosophy of life is very much a part of what makes him a successful and valuable teacher.

You do not have to be knowledgeable about classical music to enjoy this film. You do not even have to know much about it, tho I suspect you will leave the theater with some appreciation for classical music, and for what good teaching can be.

Actually, if you are engaged in the arts in any way, as a musician, an actor, a painter, a writer, etc., or if you simply enjoy the arts, find this film. I doubt if it will be around very long as it’s not going to be featured in any of our mega movie complexes.

That’s a shame.