Creativity and Psychiatry: Leonard Bernstein


The musical prodigy is believed to have had a hyperthymic temperament, but he was also vulnerable to sweeping bouts of depression and guilt. Psychiatrist and virtuoso Richard Kogan, MD, puts music to storytelling, to explain the phenomenon of genius.


Leonard Bernstein may have been the finest all-around musician that America ever produced. As a composer, he made significant contributions to Broadway, Hollywood, and the classical concert hall, and as a performer he dazzled audiences with his passionate intensity and insightful interpretations.

Richard Kogan MD, concert pianist and clinical professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, delivered a Leonard Bernstein lecture and concert attended by 1600 psychiatrists in New York City at the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting in 2018, the 100th anniversary of Bernstein’ birth.

According to Dr Kogan, “Leonard Bernstein was a man with a hyperthymic temperament, energetic, exuberant, and indefatigably sociable. Whenever he performed, he could always access ecstatic states.” But Dr Kogan notes that Bernstein was also vulnerable to sweeping bouts of depression and guilt, and this emotional contradiction, along with his conflicts with gender identity, animated his extraordinary and often troubled career.

The video includes piano performances of beloved songs, such as America and There’s a Place for Us, from the score of Leonard Bernstein’s musical West Side Story.

Dr Kogan can be contacted at

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