R.I.P., James DePriest

James DePriest: November 21, 1936 – February 8, 2013

The music world mourns today. Distinguished conductor and educator, James DePriest, died yesterday at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona. At the time of his death, DePreist, 76, was Director Emeritus of Conducting and Orchestral Studies at The Juilliard School and Laureate Music Director of the Oregon Symphony. KGW Newschannel 8 reports:

“The modern era of the Oregon Symphony began with Jimmy, and maybe so did our general agreement that we could and should take our culture seriously,” said longtime Portland arts critic Barry Johnson. “That is leadership of a great order, and that’s another thing that Jimmy was — a great leader.”

According to his Juilliard biography “he appeared with every major North American orchestra, and internationally,  he has conducted in Amsterdam, Berlin, Budapest, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Manchester, Melbourne, Montreal, Munich, Prague, Rome, Rotterdam, Seoul, Stockholm, Stuttgart, Sydney, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Toronto and Vienna.”

His varied recorded repertoire includes a celebrated Shostakovich series with the Helsinki Philharmonic and 15 recordings with the Oregon Symphony which have helped establish that orchestra as one of America’s finest, the biography reads.

Born in Philadelphia, the nephew of the famed contralto Marian Anderson, Mr. DePreist became early in his career something that is still a rarity today: an African American conductor leading top-tier orchestras. OregonLive reports:

“His wife, Ginette DePreist, said he had suffered a massive heart attack last March, followed by open-heart surgery. Since then, he had been in and out of the hospital.

“He had lots of setbacks,” Ginette DePreist said, “but he kept fighting.” In the past couple of weeks, his kidneys started to fail and he decided to stop fighting, she said.”

(Note the comment section – some people have the strangest things to say in obituaries! They can’t help but interject political and racist bullshit into every conversation and statement)

Finally, from Wikipedia:

“During DePreist’s stay in Japan as the permanent conductor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, his name and likeness were used in the Japanese manga and anime, Nodame Cantabile,[9] in which he was the musical director of the fictional Roux-Marlet Orchestra, and hired the series protagonist Shinichi Chiaki as the orchestra’s new resident conductor. DePreist also conducted the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra to provide the music for both the anime and the live action drama.

DePreist, friends with comedian Bill Cosby in high school, was commissioned in 1987 to rearrange the theme song to The Cosby Show.[12]

Here’s to a pioneering gentleman who shared his love of music with the world. Rest in peace, good brotha…you will be missed.

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