Lehman Center brings performance art, lively music to new season

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A typical Saturday performance day starts at 10 a.m., for Eva Bornstein. 

When patrons come rushing in at 7 p.m., Bornstein — the executive director of the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts — already is there, rotating between sound checks and accommodating the needs of performers who come to Lehman from all around the world.

Just before showtime, Bornstein gets ready to make her way to the stage to formally greet the audience, a longstanding tradition she hasn’t missed in 12 years. 

The Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, a concert hall located within Lehman College, starts a new performance season Sept. 16, marking the institution’s 37th year on Bedford Park Boulevard. It boasts international attractions at affordable ticket prices, including a roster of past acts ranging from Patti LaBelle to Prince Royce. 

As executive director, Bornstein has the power to pick a series of artists and performance groups that grace the stage each fall and spring. Even with four decades of experience, each year brings a series of difficult decisions to make in order to bring an eclectic mix of music, dance and theater acts to Lehman audiences.

“It’s very painful because you have millions and zillions of choices,” Bornstein said. “But you can only come up with a few. If we had an unlimited budget, we could have a group every night.”

Her main mission in putting this together, however, is to offer diversity, “meaning where these companies come from, so that people in the Bronx experience different cultures.”

On top of that, Bornstein wants to fuse this worldly cultural experience with local artists to support their craft as well. This season, audiences can expect performances from groups like The Martial Artists and Acrobats of Tianjin, hailing from China, to the Spanish Harlem Orchestra. 

Bornstein’s mission to help bring the world to the Bronx is just one of the many things she has to focus on and balance daily. But to her, it’s all worth it. 

“When you’re a director for any not-for-profit organization, every day there’s a new struggle,” she said. “You have to have the real passion for what you do, or you won’t survive.”

With every artist, Bornstein consistently learns the amount of work and effort and dedication that goes into each artist’s and group’s performance. 

Even the famous ones. 

“It’s impossible for me to be star-struck,” Bornstein said. “Because I look at them not as commodities, not someone famous. I look at them as very hardworking artists that make it to the status of celebrity.”

Bornstein hopes locals will stop for a performance or two to take in what the center has to offer.

“If people don’t support it, they will lose a really important cultural institution,” she said. ””It’s very crucial that we have culture in any form possible.”

And she’ll keep plugging in the work.

“This is what (arts directors) live for,” Bornstein said. “This is what we believe in.”

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