On this day in 1930, a musical theatre legend was welcomed into the world. Music Theatre International would like to wish composer and lyricist, Stephen Sondheim, a very happy birthday!
As we celebrate his legacy on this special day, we also reflect on his numerous contributions to the theatre. Mr. Sondheim is the recipient of eight Tony Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and multiple Grammy Awards, served as President of the Dramatists Guild for nearly a decade, and was described by Frank Rich of the New York Times as “the greatest, and perhaps best-known artist working in musical theatre.”
Through the years, Mr. Sondheim has provided music and lyrics to some of the most well known musicals from the Broadway stage; SWEENEY TODD, WEST SIDE STORY, and ASSASSINS, to COMPANY, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, and a countless number of other shows. While Stephen Sondheim’s writing continues to define an incredible legacy, it is his dedication and passion for the advocacy of arts education that should be recognized on this special day.
“Teaching is a sacred profession to me…” ~ Stephen Sondheim
Stephen Sondheim was influential in inspiring and encouraging MTI Chairman and CEO, Freddie Gershon to create MTI’s Broadway Junior Collection, an idea that originally began with the adaptations of ANNIE and INTO THE WOODS. The series caters to younger casts and allows more students to experience the joy and benefits of putting on a musical. With Sondheim’s full support, INTO THE WOODS JR. was one of the first titles to be created. The musical reminds us that children will listen to the lessons we teach them. The process of creating and presenting it can be seen in the PBS documentary “Children Will Listen.”
Stephen Sondheim’s involvement with guiding the development of the Broadway Junior series is just one lesser-known example of his legacy as an education advocate and MTI author. Mr. Sondheim is also connected to several theatre education foundations, performing arts scholarships, and the educational programming at the Kennedy Center. Read about the Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards here.
Now in 2012, Sondheim devotes most of his time to giving back and helping to ensure full access to musical theatre for under-served schools. His passion for teaching & education also continues to inspire teachers all across the country. For Stephen Sondheim, it all comes back to honoring those teachers – the teachers who serve as mentors during the impressionable times of a child’s life.
Just as Sondheim’s mentor, Oscar Hammerstein II, had a profound influence on him as a person and writer, he believes the same could happen for all of the children working with their teachers and directors on a musical. As he once stated, “There will be a relationship that you will have with your teacher and that’s all-important. Education is just about learning to learn.”
Happy Birthday to Stephen Sondheim, a legendary writer and incredible supporter of arts education. We honor you for all that you have done and for the positive impact you have made on the future generations of artists.
Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Read additional articles about Stephen Sondheim here.