Known for his ability to inspire audiences and musicians alike, Jeffrey Bernstein is an American composer and conductor based in Southern California. He is founding artistic director of the Pasadena Master Chorale, an auditioned volunteer community chorus, and artistic director of the Los Angeles Daiku. Previously Bernstein served as artistic director of the Hollywood Master Chorale and assistant conductor of the Pasadena Symphony and POPS. From 1997 to 2008 Bernstein was director of choral music at Occidental College in Los Angeles, where he rejuvenated a century-old Glee Club tradition and taught courses in music theory, counterpoint, composing and arranging, 20th-century music, and the American musical theater. Bernstein began his career in the theater, working first as a lighting designer and subsequently serving as a musical director and conductor. He led over 25 professional productions and served as associate musical director for the national touring company of CATS.
During the thirty year span of his career Bernstein has conducted dozens of major works and led choirs on fourteen tours of three continents. He has conducted Bach’s St. John Passion with Sanford Sylvan in Boston, Haydn’s Creation with the Arad Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus in Romania, Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors with Suzanna Guzmán at the Pasadena Playhouse, Dvorak’s Czech Suite with the Naples Philharmonic in Florida, and over a dozen other orchestral performances at the Harvard Business School. He was guest conductor with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in an acclaimed program he created for young people entitled “Mozart the Wonder Boy”. In 2013 he conducted the annual performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Naruto, Japan, the first American to do so. He has conducted the Ninth on many other occasions, including at the Walt Disney Concert Hall and at Beethoven's birthplace in Bonn, Germany, and he is honored to return to Naruto to conduct in 2020, the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.
Bernstein’s songs can be heard around the world on the PBS children’s television program “Let’s Go Luna”, starring Judy Greer. He has composed numerous concert works, and his music has been performed across the United States and in Europe, Japan and Australia. 21st Century 23rd Psalm, composed for the L.A. Choral Lab was released on that group’s debut album in November 2019. In 2012 Bernstein composed Fukushima Requiem and conducted performances of the work in Los Angeles and in Naruto, Japan. In 2013 he composed Dreams of Japan for the Tokushima Symphony and premiered the work with them. His commissions include The Human Journey and 21st Century 23rd Psalm for the L.A. Choral Lab, Circumnavigation of the World for Occidental College, Chomolungma for the Governor’s School of North Carolina, Phoenix for UCLA bassoonist Melson Varsovia, Pablo Neruda in Love for The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut and over a dozen a cappella choral works and arrangements. His choral arrangements are featured in the 2002 film Slackers. Active as a pianist, Bernstein has released four albums of original piano music: PianoJournals, Clear Mind Calm Water, The Desert House, and Pianoasis. In 2017 Bernstein was award second prize in the American Prize competition in both choral composition and choral performance. He is also the recipient of a Yale School of Music Alumni Ventures Award in 2013, and in March 2016 he was named the Hotchkiss School’s Alumnus of the Month. A committed educator and advocate for young people, Bernstein teaches at the Pasadena Waldorf School.
Bernstein grew up in the New England, living in New York, Connecticut, Vermont and Massachusetts before moving to California in 1996. He holds music degrees from UCLA, Yale and Harvard, where he also served as acting associate director of choral activities and assistant conductor of the world-famous Harvard Glee Club. An experienced choral singer Bernstein has sung with the Harvard Glee Club, the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Musica Angelica and the Los Angeles Master Chorale under such conductors as Seiji Ozawa, Roger Norrington, and Simon Rattle. Choirs under Bernstein’s direction have sung for Gustavo Dudamel, Zubin Mehta, Jorge Mester, and Esa-Pekka Salonen. Bernstein studied conducting with Jorge Mester and Jameson Marvin and composition with Peter Lieberson, James Yannatos, Jacob Druckman, Roger Bourland and David Lefkowitz. He makes his home in Altadena, California.