Marin Alsop, distinguished conductor and Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, is the recipient of the 2017 Ditson Conductor’s Award for the advancement of American music, Columbia University has announced. The prize was presented Saturday evening, September 16, at a concert by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, Maryland. Paul Moravec, advisory committee member of the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, 2004 Pulitzer Prize winner in music, and a Columbia University alumnus in composition, bestowed the award. Alsop received $5,000 and a citation on behalf of Columbia’s President Lee C. Bollinger.
Fred Lerdahl, Fritz Reiner Professor of Musical Composition at Columbia and Secretary of the Ditson Fund, said, “Marin Alsop is legendary for her sustained advocacy of contemporary American music. She is deeply committed to it and performs it with enormous insight and flair.”
Jeffrey Milarsky, Music Director and Conductor of the Columbia University Orchestra and recipient of the 2013 Ditson Conductor’s Award, said, “Marin Alsop’s performances are imbued with attention to detail, passion, and an incredible sense of discovery. The presence of American music is continually represented on her programs around the globe, from São Paulo to Salzburg. She has redefined the role of orchestral American music.”
Upon learning of the award, Marin Alsop said, “It’s an absolute privilege to be honored with the 2017 Ditson Conductor’s Award. Performing the works of American composers has always been important to me, and I will continue to support the exceptional music that is being written.”
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, David Robertson, David Zinman, Alan Gilbert, George Manahan, Leonard Bernstein, and, last year, Cliff Colnot.
Alsop is recognized across the world for her innovative programming and for her deep commitment to education and the development of audiences of all ages. Her success as Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has been recognized by the extension of her tenure until 2021. After her appointment in 2007, she launched OrchKids, which provides music education and instruments to Baltimore’s underserved youth. She became Music Director of the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra in 2012 and made history in 2013 as the first female conductor of the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms. She conducts major orchestras around the world, including the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. As a student of Leonard Bernstein, Alsop is central to his 100th-birthday celebrations, conducting Bernstein’s Mass at the Ravinia Festival, where she serves as Musical Curator for 2018 and 2019. She recently concluded a 15-year tenure as Music Director of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in California. Alsop is the only conductor to receive the MacArthur Fellowship and was recently appointed Director of Graduate Conducting at the Peabody Institute. She attended the Juilliard School and Yale University, which awarded her an Honorary Doctorate in 2017.
See https://ditsonfund.org/conductors-award for a list of all previous winners of the Ditson Conductor’s Award.