Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Remembering James De Preist

(Picture courtesy of NY Times)

I read, yesterday, that the conductor James De Preist died at age 76 on February 8. In recent years Maestro DePreist privileged me to attend his rehearsals with the Juilliard Symphony Orchestra. He was Director of Orchestra Activities at the school. I greatly enjoyed that privilege, and was always deeply moved and impressed whenever I had an opportunity to visit with him after rehearsals. He was encouraging and motivating in his succinct advice to me and in his response to my Mahler research and writing ( re: Mahler's Ninth Symphony). DePreist's performances with the Juilliard Orchestra were inspiring and exemplary for my development as a "late bloomer", given that he never let obstacles stop him from achieving his goals. He rehearsed the orchestra and conducted its public performances from a wheelchair (he had contracted polio in 1962).

News of Maestro DePreist's passing marks a crossroads in my thoughts. As I continue to institute my own work in the field of conducting here in New York City, his important example will remain a guide, his kindness will be remembered, and even his historical family roots will help to edify my perspective: His Aunt was the great contralto, Marian Anderson, whos name was a household staple in the Horton home as I was growing up. My mother, herself a noted soprano in the Boston area when I was a child, revered Ms. Anderson.

If I think of obstacles, I will think of Maestro James DePreist and Marian Anderson. Their stories are outlined at: