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To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Uniting community through art: the Leonard Bernstein Festival

Brandeis commemorated its 75th anniversary from April 6 to 14 with the lively Leonard Bernstein Festival, an annual event highlighting the university’s dedication to innovation, education and community involvement. The festival was organized by a dedicated team of Festival of the Arts staff. The festival showcased the diverse talents of students and performers from both within and outside the Brandeis community.

Dani Salsberg ’27 was an associate producer for the festival and played a crucial role in the event’s organization, focusing on Super Sunday, a day dedicated to family fun and entertainment. From coordinating performers to managing the stage, Salsberg was involved in many aspects of creating a unified week of festivities.

Dijia Wu ’25, also an associate producer, took charge of the technical aspects, such as website editing and artist outreach. She spread awareness of the festival through a variety of avenues, ranging from handing out flyers to sharing details in popular student spots such as different places on campus, Moody Street and Boston. Her commitment to expanding the festival’s reach underscored its role as a platform for artists to freely express themselves.

The theme of Brandeis at 75 permeated the festival, with a focus on celebrating the university’s rich history and values. Underlying this theme were four subcategories: honoring Jewish roots, promoting innovation and education, advocating for repairing the world and fostering community spirit.

Central to the festival’s ethos was inclusivity, Salsberg explained. “We wanted anyone who wanted to perform to have the opportunity. It’s about community and being together.” Wu adds, “We want people to get involved. It’s an awesome free platform for artists to express their art.” Through a collaborative approach, the festival staff ensured that every performer felt welcomed and valued.

Despite the enthusiasm of the staff, challenges arose, particularly in garnering broader participation and awareness. Wu explained that “we were having a hard time finding volunteers and artists at the beginning. This is because we know Springfest is the most prevalent festival at Brandeis and this is happening at the same time as Springfest.” Nevertheless, through strategic outreach efforts and networking, the staff persevered in rallying artists and volunteers to contribute to the festival’s success.

Promotion of the festival was multifaceted, employing mass emails, newsletters, social media outreach and community engagement initiatives. “There were a bunch of videos and outreach done on Instagram,” Salsberg shared. “And then I personally went around campus and pulled people to come.” Additionally, Salsberg and her coworkers created a community mural, fostering widespread awareness and participation, transforming the festival into a truly communal event.

The highlight of the festival for Salsberg was the community art piece, a visual representation of the theme of repairing the world. Despite initial challenges in garnering community involvement, the project evolved into a profound symbol of unity and collective action. While this was only her first time participating in visual art, Salsberg expressed pride in witnessing the success of the piece. “I can’t believe how many conversations I’ve had with people probing conversations about what we can do to repair the world and how we can be together and be unified in that.”

For Wu, the highlight was the diverse array of art forms showcased throughout the event. “We have jazz music, K-Pop and ukuleles. We have many different kinds of cultural and background-based arts. It’s so nice to see,” she shared. This sentiment underscores the festival’s commitment to inclusivity and cultural diversity, providing a platform for artists from various backgrounds to express themselves and share their unique talents. 

As Salsberg, Wu and the rest of their team navigated the intricacies of organizing the festival, they remained dedicated in their commitment to creating an inclusive space for artistic exploration and dialogue.

The Leonard Bernstein Festival served as a powerful testament to the transformative power of art and community. Through collaboration, inclusivity and a commitment to shared values, the festival succeeded in uniting individuals from diverse backgrounds in a celebration of creativity. Although the festival has concluded, its memory of these efforts lives on through the community art piece, which still stands in the Shapiro Campus Center. 

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