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Sat, 11.21.1936

James DePreist, one of America’s finest Musicians

James DePreist

*James DePreist was born on this date in 1936. He was a Black poet, performer, composer, arranger, and conductor of music.

Born in Philadelphia, PA., DePreist is the nephew of the contralto Marian Anderson. He studied piano and percussion from the age of 10, but did not decide on a musical career until he reached his early 20s. After graduating from high school, he entered the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania as a pre-law student, receiving a B.S. in 1958 and an M.A. in 1961. DePreist also studied music history, the theory of harmony and orchestration at the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music, and composition with American composer, Vincent Persichetti.

In 1962, the State Department sponsored a cultural exchange tour of Asia, engaging DePreist as an American specialist in music. During this tour, DePreist was stricken with polio, paralyzed in both legs, and flown home for intensive therapy.   Within six months, he had fought his way back to the point where he could walk with the aid of crutches and braces. Courage, determination and talent carried him to the semi-finals of the 1963 Dmitri Mitropoulos International Music Competition for Conductors.  After another overseas tour as conductor in residence in Thailand, DePreist returned to the United States.  He appeared with the Minneapolis International Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

In 1964, he captured first prize in the Mitropoulos International Competition. The following year he conducted Marian Anderson´s farewell concert at Philadelphia's Robin Hood Dell. A gifted and versatile musician, DePreist has been active in several areas of music, where he has been most often acclaimed by musicians and critics alike, as a young man of rare ability. This estimate was confirmed in 1965 when he was appointed assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic.

De Preist made his highly acclaimed 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.

He has 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.

DePreist is Laureate Music Director of the Oregon Symphony and Director of Conducting and Orchestral Studies at the Juilliard School. He 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.  In 2005 he became Permanent Conductor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra.

Widely esteemed as one of America's finest conductors, James DePreist, during the past three decades 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. 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.  In 2012, DePreist suffered a heart attack, from which he never fully recovered. He died on February 8, 2013, at the age of 76, in Scottsdale, Arizona and is interred at Eden Cemetery in Collingdale, Pennsylvania.

He was married to Ginette DePreist.  DePreist had two daughters, Tracy and Jennifer, from his first marriage to Betty Childress.

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