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Erich Kunzel '57(Doctor of Arts)

Posted 04/19/07 • Roland Adams (603) 646-3661

Biographical background on 2007 Dartmouth honorary degree recipients

Erich Kunzel '57
Erich Kunzel '57

Erich Kunzel, a 1957 graduate of Dartmouth, is one of the world's best known and most recorded "pops" conductors. With additional degrees from Harvard and Brown universities, Kunzel studied with and was personal assistant to the great French conductor Pierre Monteux. Kunzel made his professional debut in 1957 conducting the Santa Fe Opera Company. He began making his name in "classical crossover" music in 1965, when he was invited to conduct a pops concert by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, featuring jazz pianist Dave Brubeck as soloist. He served as the orchestra's principal conductor until 1977, when his by-then proven ability with crossover repertoire made him the obvious choice for conductor for the newly formed Cincinnati Pops.

Kunzel's association with Cincinnati Pops continues to this day and includes an unprecedented catalog of 83 recordings; four consecutive years as Billboard Magazine's Classical Crossover Artist of the Year; eight nationally televised Pops specials on PBS; and national and international appearances with the ensemble, including 10 Carnegie Hall concerts and numerous trips to Asia. Cincinnati Pops is one of the world's most active ensembles of its kind, maintaining a year-round performing and recording schedule.

In addition, Kunzel is a regular guest conductor with orchestras around the world, including more than 100 performances each with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (the Chicago Tribune dubbed him "Prince of Pops") and the Boston Pops; and 15 consecutive years of televised Memorial Day and Fourth of July concerts by the National Symphony, performing on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The 1996 Fourth of July concert drew a record crowd of nearly one million people to the Capitol, as well as the largest viewing audience for a musical event in PBS history. Kunzel made his Viennese debut in 2005 as part of the 100th anniversary season of the Vienna Volksopera, conducting the Viennese premiere of The Sound of Music.

Awards and honors Kunzel has received include the 2006 National Medal of Arts, the U.S. government's highest honor for artists and art patrons; a 2006 election into Phi Beta Kappa, America's oldest honor society; a 1996 "Distinguished Alumnus Award" from the Phi Delta Theta International Fraternity in recognition of Kunzel's outstanding achievements in the performing arts; the 1995 "Others" award from the Salvation Army in honor of his contributions to the city of Cincinnati; the 1989 Sony Tiffany Walkman Award for "visionary recording activities"; and numerous honorary degrees and other awards from colleges around the country, including the 1994 Presidential Medal for Outstanding Leadership and Achievement, from Dartmouth.

Kunzel and his wife Brunhilde are residents of Swans Island, ME, and Naples, FL.

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