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Composer and Pasadena Symphony advisor James DePreist, 76

James DePreist
James DePreist
Courtesy Pasadena Symphony

Conductor James DePreist died this morning in Scottsdale, Ariz. "Jimmy" DePreist conducted symphonies all over the world, from New York to Tokyo,  and contributed his talents locally as artistic advisor to the Pasadena Symphony. He was 76.

DePreist's wife, Ginette DePreist, told The Oregonian  her husband had been in and out of the hospital since a massive heart attack last March followed by open-heart surgery.

The nephew of contralto and civil rights figure Marian Anderson, DePreist may have had music in his blood, but initially planned to become a lawyer. Instead of practicing law, DePreist starting practicing with a jazz quintet and earned international praise for his talents as a conductor.

KUSC's Jim Svejda told NPR's Ray Hurst, "Jimmy De Preist is not a talented conductor. He's one of the five finest that America's ever produced."

Throughout his life, DePreist struggled physically. He suffered from both polio and kidney disease, eventually receiving a kidney transplant from a devoted fan.

In an email statement, Paul Jan Zdunek, CEO of the Pasadena Symphony Association, said, "Maestro DePreist ... was not only a consummate musician and trailblazing conductor, but also the most thoughtful, loving and centered human being who touched us all so deeply. It is fitting that we remember his life and spirit this weekend with the previously scheduled Symphony No. 4 of Gustav Mahler which ends with an ethereal movement describing 'The Heavenly Life.'"