James Conlon to receive Irma Lazarus Award

James Conlon
Cincinatti Enquirer

May Festival music director James Conlon has been selected to receive the Irma Lazarus Award at the 2016 Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Ohio. The award is one of nine Governor's Awards announced on Friday by the Ohio Arts Council. The award ceremony will take place on May 18 in Columbus.

At the close of the 2016 May Festival, Conlon will step down after 37 years as music director of America's oldest continuous choral festival. In his nomination letter, the May Festival's executive director Steven Sunderman said that Conlon "opened our eyes and ears to new music, including that of composers whose lives had been forever altered by oppression and tragedy, and shared his unparalleled and infectious enthusiasm for the classic choral and vocal literature."

Conlon has presided over more May Festivals than any other music director in the Festival's 137-year history, and holds a place among the longest-tenured music directors of any major classical music institution in the country. Conlon is also music director of the Los Angeles Opera, and in August, led his final concert at the Ravinia Festival outside of Chicago, where he has been music director for 11 years. In June, he was named the first American to head Italy's radio orchestra, the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai in Turin. He is a busy international guest conductor, and has led more than 275 performances at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

The Irma Lazarus Award honors the memory of the late Cincinnati arts patron and advocate, who helped to found the Ohio Arts Council and also served as its board chair. The council states that the award "goes to individuals or organizations who have helped shape public support for the arts through their work as advocates and have brought national and international recognition to Ohio through sustained dedication to artistic excellence."

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