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Eva Bornstein: Bringing the Stars to the Bronx

By Deardra Shuler

Lehman Center for the Performing Arts at Lehman College located at 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, in the Bronx, is fortunate to have Eva Bornstein as their executive director.  All one need do is observe the quality programming to see that Ms. Bornstein is well connected.  In fact, though she has been with Lehman for little over a year, she is already putting the Performing Arts Center on the map via the famous artists she has garnered.  Eva has managed to book headliners such as Roberta Flack, the Brazilian international orchestra, Orquestra De Sao Paulo; Patti LaBelle, Johnny Mathis, the O’Jays, Bernadette Peters, Jerry Rivera and Ray Sepulveda; Joan Rivers and Robert Klein.  She is bringing in programs like Swan Lake, The Nutcracker Suite with the Moscow Ballet Company; Handel’s “Messiah,” the opera “Tosca” and “Cats.”  It appears that Bornstein is exposing Lehman’s Performing Arts Center to so much culture The Bronx audiences will experience the flavor of Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall at affordable prices.

Eva Bornstein has nearly 30 years of experience under her belt in the field of arts management, both within the private sector and in academia.  Presently, a New York City resident, the charming Ms. Bornstein was born in Krakow, Poland, a city well known for its art culture.  “I went to the High School of Drama in Krakow,” stated Eva.  “I started off as an actress in Poland.  Growing up in Krakow, I was well exposed to the performing arts.  Krakow is a medieval city in the southern region of Poland with a rich cultural history.   In fact, it’s the only city in Poland the Nazis didn’t destroy.  The Nazis had wired the city in an attempt to blow it up but the allies and Polish underground cut the wires and saved Krakow” informed Eva of Poland’s war history. 

“Presently, in Krakow, Polish musicians are being influenced by African American jazz artists and are imitating Dizzy Gillespie and other jazz musicians.  Everyone in Poland knows who BB King is because African American artists are well respected there,” said Eva about the growing influence black jazz artists has upon Polish musicians.

Eva left Poland in the 1970s and went to London, England and from there to Canada, where she attended an arts administration program at York University in London, Ontario.  She eventually founded the first Canadian Mozart Festival.  “When I was in London, Ontario, Canada, I brought Dizzy Gillespie there for the first time.  We were sitting in a limo together and he turned to me and asked: “Eva, where the heck am I?”  I had to explain to him that he was somewhere between Detroit and Canada because he had no idea where he was,’” chuckled the Arts administrator.  “In fact, you may be amused to know that the famous group, Canadian Brass was comprised primarily of Americans dodging the draft.  Canada had a lot of American influences because many American artists immigrated to Canada during that period,” recalled Bornstein. 

After graduation, Eva was hired to run cultural events at the University of Western Ontario.  “The university had very prominent musicians teaching there so I had an opportunity to meet them.  I also managed a 2300 seat Hall as well as 5 other theatres.  I learned on the job. That was great!  There were 5 theatres running simultaneously in one night where opera, ballet, theatre, and musical comedies were featured.  I not only booked, I promoted and developed the programming and staff.  I was 24 years old, so I had a lot of energy,” said Eva who later in her career moved on to the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania after having become known for her ability to start up brand new cultural facilities. While there, she brought in the New York Philharmonic and other high brow programming.  She continued to meet the same challenge at the Kirkland Fine Arts Center at Millikin University. 

“I wanted to do something for Poland so through an American Polish Foundation located in Manhattan I met a conductor who was hired by Pope John Paul II.  This conductor and I did a tribute to 9/11 together at Carnegie Hall and then we transferred a similar tribute to Krakow, Poland.  Pope John Paul supported the one in Poland, so when he died we paid tribute to him. Later PBS aired it.  We had a very small budget for this concert.  I was challenged to find one of the best European orchestras and convince them to donate their services.  We were fortunate that Germany sponsored the Dresden Philharmonic and thus 200 artists donated their services for free as a tribute to 9/11.  I think 9/11 became an object of sadness all around the world,” stated Eva.

“Because people have so many choices in New York, it’s often difficult to bring people into cultural events; even the media can choose what they want to cover so there is constant competition to get attention from the media and audiences.  But I am committed to it because I believe it’s important.  Lehman is going to have many family shows and free performances for local high schools,” said Bornstein who recognizes the Hispanic and Black ethnicity which surrounds the Lehman College neighborhood.  Bornstein is bringing in the performers she recognizes the community will enjoy, while seeking to expose these audiences to artists and art forms that heretofore have been unknown to them.

“We are seeking to build a loyal audience by bringing in well known artists so that we can attract spectators throughout the city proper and surrounding areas.  I want people to know that even if the performances we feature are not well known they will still be of high quality.  Lehman Center for  the Performing Arts needs ticket sales as well as corporate sponsors. I intend to be aggressive in bringing in the type of programming that will attract both.” 

For tickets call 718-960-8833, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM (Mon-Fri); For further information Google: http://www.lehmancenter.org/


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