In 1961, Bernhardt began his professional musical career. He worked in Paul Winter’s sextet, which he continued for 3 years. This brought him back to New York City, where he began to work with a large variety of musicians, including Gerry Mulligan, George Bensen, and Jeremy Steig. Working with such a large range of musicians, he was exposed to all kinds of music, especially after working with American jazz pianist Bill Evans. Under Evans, Bernhardt learned about impressionist and inventive jazz, unlike what he had heard before. Evans would serve as a mentor to Bernhardt throughout his career.