John Mauceri, distinguished conductor, producer, educator and writer, is the recipient of the 2015 Ditson Conductor’s Award for the advancement of American music, Columbia University has announced.
The prize will be presented Thursday evening, April 21 at a performance of the Yale Symphony Orchestra, led by guest conductor and former musical director Mauceri and musical director Toshiyuki Shimada at Carnegie Hall. James Kendrick, advisory committee member of the Alice M. Ditson Fund and a partner in the law firm of Alter Kendrick & Baron, LLP, will bestow the award. Mauceri will receive $5,000 and a citation on behalf of Columbia’s President Lee C. Bollinger.
“John Mauceri has led a long and outstanding career as a conductor of contemporary American concert music, film music and musical theater. He has been an exemplary teacher and school administrator. In the variety and quality of his achievements, he has had a major impact on the music of our time,” said Fred Lerdahl, Fritz Reiner Professor of Musical Composition at Columbia and Secretary of the Alice M. Ditson Fund.
“It is a particular honor and privilege to present this award to John Mauceri. I have known him for more than 30 years, beginning when we were both working with Leonard Bernstein, and I have had the great pleasure of collaborating on many projects since that time. John’s knowledge of, and passion for, the music of the 20th and 21st centuries is unsurpassed, and the number of composers and performers who have benefited from his leadership and guidance is extraordinary,” said Kendrick.
The Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University established the Ditson Conductor’s Award in 1945. It is the oldest continuing award honoring conductors for distinguished contributions to American music. Previous recipients include James Levine, Christopher Keene, Mstislav Rostropovich, Leopold Stokowski, Leonard Bernstein, Eugene Ormandy and, last year, Harold Rosenbaum.
Over a career spanning five decades, Mauceri has conducted an extraordinary number of world premieres, first recordings and overseas performances of a wide variety of music by emerging and established American composers, both native and naturalized, including John Adams, Marc Blitzstein, John Cage, John Corigliano, David Del Tredici, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Adam Guettel, Andrew Imbrie, Paul Hindemith, Charles Ives, Gian Carlo Menotti, Arnold Schoenberg and Kurt Weill. For 18 years, Leonard Bernstein had Mauceri conduct and edit his music, including the world premiere productions of A Quiet Place at both the Kennedy Center and La Scala; the European premiere and 10th anniversary production of Mass; and all current performing versions of Candide on Broadway, which garnered five Tony Awards, at the New York City Opera, for which Mauceri won a Grammy, and at the Scottish Opera, for which he won an Olivier Award.
Mauceri has also become one of the world’s leading authorities on two other forms of quintessentially American music—film scores and the Broadway musical. Through his efforts, film music written by great composers who fled persecution in the World Wars and became American citizens, including Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Miklos Rozsa, Max Steiner and Franz Waxman, as well as American-born film composers, Elmer Bernstein, Danny Elfman, Jerry Goldsmith, Bernard Herrmann and Howard Shore, have been introduced to concert audiences worldwide. As an educator, Mauceri has had a profound effect on thousands of students, from Yale University to his recent tenure as Chancellor of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where his productions of works such as Bernstein’s West Side Story, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! and Korngold’s Much Ado About Nothing gained national acclaim.
Mauceri received his undergraduate and graduate music degrees from Yale.