Home for the Curious Musician

The Four Ingredients That Made West Side Story Great

In anticipation of Carnegie Hall’s upcoming production of West Side Story at the Knockdown Center in Queens, New York this weekend, we’ve been binge-watching anything and everything we can find about the well-loved musical and its creators on YouTube. Of course, it helps that we recently made a series of videos about the show for the aptly named course, The West Side Story Companion, created as part Carnegie Hall’s Somewhere Project.

In the featured video, Jamie Bernstein discusses one of the most incredible cases of luck and timing in theatrical history. Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, and Stephen Sondheim — each artistic geniuses in their own right — came together to develop one of the greatest and most groundbreaking musicals of all time.

four artists, west side story



Leonard Bernstein was a classically-trained musician. Often considered one of the greatest musicians in American history, Bernstein is known for his achievements as a gifted composer and beloved conductor, whose other works include On the Town and Candide.


Arthur Laurents was an accomplished writer and director, whose credits include stage favorites such as Gypsy and La Cage Aux Folles, as well as films like The Way We Were and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope. 


Jerome Robbins was a classically-trained ballet dancer who became a legendary choreographer and director. Between performance and choreography, Robbins graced the theaters of Broadway for five decades, contributing his artistic skill set to many wonderful musicals and ballets.


Stephen Sondheim came into the picture with an extensive literary and musical background. He would go on to pen such favorites as Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods (both of which have recently made their way from the stage to the big screen).

If you’d like to learn more about the impact, history, writing, music, and legacy of West Side Story, be check out our completely free course made in partnership with Carnegie Hall here. 

Learn more about The Somewhere Project and Carnegie Hall’s upcoming West Side Story production here.

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Mahea Lee

Mahea Lee is a classically trained pianist and composer who has a degree from a jazz school and leads an electro-pop band. Her greatest musical passion is lyrical songwriting, but she's been known to write the occasional fugue. She graduated from Berklee College of Music, where she majored in Contemporary Writing and Production and minored in Music Theory. For more Mahea, check out Soundlfly's course, The Improviser's Toolkit.