Leslie Rudolph Bernhardt

1957 -

Leslie Bernhardt, a conductor and versatile performer on several instruments, has taught music at all levels in Seventh-day Adventist education. He has also been extensively involved in church music in both SDA and other denominational churches.

Leslie was born in McPerson, Kansas, one of four children of Alfred and Millicent Gemmer Bernhardt. Both parents were teachers and the family moved frequently, teaching in SDA schools in South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Music was an important activity in the home, and all of the children were given lessons on piano starting at an early age and then switched to other instruments. From his earliest years, Leslie's only goal was to be a music teacher, and he would be the only one of his siblings to pursue a career in music.

He recently wrote about the diversity of his training and experiences through his high school years:

My earliest lessons were from local piano teachers and the church organist. I also took free lessons on the Hammond organ at the local store in Wichita, Kansas, then combo lessons from a trailer-house teacher who simultaneously taught my brother electric guitar and drums and me organ and steel guitar while she played honky-tonk piano.

I began playing trumpet in the fourth grade and played from then on in bands through my college years. I wanted more challenging teachers and received a year of lessons on organ from the Wichita State University organ teacher. I attended Enterprise Academy, where I took organ from a Mrs. Wright and Candace Luss, who also taught me piano. Elwin Vixie taught me vibraphone and marimba and Maurice Crandall became my first mentor for doing music department work, teaching me how to fix and repair instruments, tune pianos, and play tuba.

Following graduation in 1976 from Enterprise Academy, Leslie enrolled at Columbia Union College, now Washington Adventist University, as a music major, where he studied organ with Van Knauss and piano with Florence Clarambeau. He completed a B.S. in music education in 1980 and accepted a position at Middle East College in Lebanon, where he taught for a year before accepting a position at College Adventiste Antille-Guyane in Martinique. Bernhardt started music programs in both schools.

In the next eight years he taught music at Ozark Adventist Academy in Arkansas, Redwood Junior Academy in California, and then at Weimar Academy and College, part of the Weimar Institute, a self-supporting entity in California identified with the SDA church. In the latter two schools, he served as their first instrumental teachers and in the college served as head of the music department.

During this time Bernhardt completed an M.Mus. at Andrews University in 1990, with emphases on education and performance, studying organ with C. Warren Becker and harpsichord at Notre Dame University. Additional work was taken at Newbold College in England, a school affiliated with AU. Other studies have also included orchestral conducting and voice pedagogy in Italy, England, and Switzerland, under Gisela Willi-Winandy; and participation in the orchestral conducting institute held at Loma Linda University, Riverside Campus, under the direction of Herbert Blomstedt.

From 1991 to 2009, he worked at schools in Oklahoma and Texas, teaching general music, voice, piano, electronic music, and, for three years, from 2006 to 2009, also band. For seven of those years, from 1999 to 2006, he taught electronic music and piano classes at the Miller Magnet School for the Performing Arts in Corpus Christi, Texas, where he created a sixty-station electronic music laboratory.

In 2009 Bernhardt accepted a teaching position at Keene Adventist Elementary School in Keene, Texas. Since 2010 he has been teaching orchestra in the Waco, Texas, Independent School District at the University Middle School, G. W. Carver Academy Magnet School, and Meadowbrook and Kendrick elementary schools.

He cites Crandall and Vixie, his academy teachers, as role models for his teaching career. He has taught and performed music evangelism in a manner inspired by Adventus Domini, a group conducted by Willi-Winandy and her husband Pierre in Europe.

Throughout his career, Bernhardt has held several church music positions including minister of music, organist, and choir director. He has served in numerous SDA churches and in churches, chapels, and cathedrals of the First Methodist, Presbyterian, First Christian, and Roman Catholic denominations.


Source: Information provided by Leslie Bernhardt, September 2011.