JACKSONVILLE, Ore. — The former director of the Oregon Symphony and a music director for the Britt Festival has died.
James DePriest passed away Friday at the age of 76. He led the Britt Music Festival from 1988 to 1992, and was one of the few black conductors to achieve international fame. He directed many prominent orchestras worldwide, but his work with the Britt Festival will leave a lasting impression with Southern Oregon music lovers.
“I think the biggest thing that he brought was just, again, that musical presence. That power that he had. He was a very powerful figure. For musicians to play under him, I know that he brought all the musicians to a higher level,” said Sara King-Cole.
In 1962 he contracted polio, leaving both legs paralyzed, but still managed to conduct from a wheelchair. He published two books of poetry, and in 2005 he won the National Medal of Arts, bestowed by President Bush. He was quoted as saying music is, “a mirror of our better selves.”