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James DePreist, one of the first African-American conductors to lead major orchestras both domestically and internationally, passed away on Friday, Feb. 8, at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 76 years old.
The Washington Post reported that DePreist died due to complications from a heart attack he had suffered last spring.
DePreist was a renowned conductor, working all over the world from locations such as Washington to major music hubs in New York, Tokyo and Sweden, over the course of his 40-year career. He was also director of conducting and orchestral studies for seven years at Juilliard.
His longest and most recognized position was with the Oregon Symphony as music director from 1980-2003. During his time with the symphony, it gained much national and international attention and honor.
According to the Portland Tribune, DePreist was cherished by many. He received a National Medal of Arts in 2005 and published two volumes of poetry.
Oregon Symphony Vice President of Communications Jim Fullan, said that DePreist “will be missed by the symphony, its musicians, board and staff. We all recognize that we stand here today because of him.”