Dean Dixon, a world renowned conductor
This is the day of Dean Dixon’s birth on this date in 1915. He was an African American orchestral conductor.
Born in New York City, he never wanted to be identified as an American Conductor or a Negro Conductor. He was an artist from his heart without labels beyond music. After conducting with Stoesel at the Julliard School and graduating from Columbia University, Dixon formed an orchestra in his home city in 1932. In 1941, he led the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra as their first African American conductor. In the following years, he also guest conducted the Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Boston, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. Symphony Orchestras.
He left the United States in 1949 for Paris where he started his European career conducting the Radio Symphony Orchestra of the French National Radio. He also guest conducted the Israel Philharmonic during 1950 and 1951 and accepted invitations to conduct in Italy, Denmark, and Sweden. From 1953 to 1960, he was Artistic and Musical Director of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra of Sweden. From 1961 until 1974, he acted as Musical Director of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra (then called the Hessische Rundfunk). From 1964 to 1967 he was appointed Musical Director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
Dixon is noted for his recordings of 20th Century American Composers, including Cowell's Symphony No. 5, McDowell's Indian Suite, Moore's Symphony No. 2, among others on the American Recording Society label.
But he remained rooted in the European Classics and recorded some of his best music for Westminster, especially the Dvorak Cello Concerto with Janigro and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Schubert's Symphonies 4 and 5 with the London Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. Fond of saying that as his career progressed he was first called the American Negro conductor, Dean Dixon, then the American conductor, Dean Dixon, and then as the conductor, Dean Dixon.
He felt he'd reach his zenith when he was referred to as simply Dean Dixon. In 1976, the world lost a great artiste and distinguished man in his death.
Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and
African American Experience
Editors: Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Today in American History