As Arthur Fiedler, John Williams and now Keith Lockhart have left their imprint on the Boston Pops Orchestra, an offshoot of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, so has Seiji Ozawa helped define the BSO.

Born to Japanese parents on September 1, 1935, in the Japanese-occupied city of Mukden, now in China, Ozawa returned with his family to Japan nine years later. There, he studied to be a concert pianist.

Ozawa also played rugby. A sports injury left him with two broken fingers and unable to play the piano. No worries. Ozawa studied conducting instead.

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In 1960, Ozawa accepted an invitation to attend the Berkshire Music Center, now Tanglewood, in Lenox, Massachusetts, the summer home of Boston Symphony Orchestra. Ozawa served as student conductor.

Massachusetts Was Home To Seiji Ozawa
Courtesy Boston Symphony Orchestra Press Office

Studies in West Berlin led to conducting opportunities with the New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony and Toronto Symphony, among others. In 1973, Ozawa was named music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, where he remained for 29 years, the longest tenure of any BSO director.

In 2002, Ozawa resigned as music director for the BSO to lead the Vienna State Opera.

In 1968, Seiji Ozawa married his second wife, Miki "Vera" Irie. The couple had two children. They remained a couple until Ozawa's death from heart failure in Tokyo on February 6, 2024. He was 88.

Massachusetts Was Home To Seiji Ozawa
Courtesy Boston Symphony Orchestra Press Office

For much of Ozawa's tenure as music director for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, he owned a home in Newton, a short drive from Boston's Symphony Hall. The Boston Herald says the three-bedroom, three-bath "contemporary-style residence" on a 29,490-square-foot lot sold for $5 million in 2010.

Ozawa won many awards and honors for his work, including an Emmy and two Grammy Awards. He was also a Kennedy Center honoree. On July 7, 1994, Seiji Ozawa Hall was inaugurated at Tanglewood.

The Associated Press reported in 2022 that Ozawa "conducted his Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival for the first time in three years to mark its 30th anniversary." It was his last public performance.

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