2005 National Medal of Arts
President George W. Bush presents the National Medal of Arts award to James DePriest. White House photo by Eric Draper.
James DePreist, newly appointed Permanent Conductor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra is Director of Conducting and Orchestral Studies at the Juilliard School and Laureate Music Director of the Oregon Symphony. Widely esteemed as one of America's finest conductors, he has served as Music Director of L'Orchestre Symphonique de Québec, Sweden's Malmö Symphony, L'Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo, and the Oregon Symphony.
Born in Philadelphia in 1936, DePreist studied composition with Vincent Persichetti at the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music and earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1962, while on a State Department tour in Bangkok, he contracted polio but recovered sufficiently to win a first prize in the Dimitri Mitropoulous International Conducting Competition. He was selected by Leonard Bernstein to be an assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic for the 1965-66 season. DePreist made his European debut with the Rotterdam Philharmonic in 1969. In 1971, Antal Dorati chose him to become his Associate Conductor with the National Symphony in Washington, D.C.
As a guest conductor he has appeared with every major North American orchestra, and internationally he has conducted in Amsterdam, Berlin, Budapest, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Manchester, Melbourne, Munich, Prague, Rome, Rotterdam, Seoul, Stockholm, Stuttgart, Sydney, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, and Vienna. He made his London debut with the London Symphony at the Barbican in April 2005.
DePreist appears regularly at the Aspen Music Festival, with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood, the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Mann Music Center, and the Juilliard orchestras at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall.
With more than 50 recordings to his credit, he has a substantial presence in the recording arena. His varied recorded repertoire includes a celebrated Shostakovich series with the Helsinki Philharmonic and 15 recordings with the Oregon Symphony that have helped establish that orchestra as one of America's finest.
James DePreist has been awarded 13 honorary doctorates and is the author of two books of poetry. He is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, and is a recipient of the Insignia of Commander of the Order of the Lion of Finland, the Medal of the City of Québec, and is an Officer of the Order of Cultural Merit of Monaco. He is the nephew of the legendary contralto Marian Anderson.
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