Kunzel’s distinguished career was personified by his 2006 National Medal
of Arts, presented by President and Mrs. Bush at a ceremony in the Oval
Office at The White House in 2007. The National Medal of Arts, the highest
honor given to artists and arts patrons by the United States Government, is
awarded to those who have made outstanding contributions to the excellence,
growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States. The
legendary “Prince of Pops” was also honored in September 2008 as an
inductee into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame.
late Maestro Max Rudolf invited Mr. Kunzel, then a young conductor on the
faculty of Brown University, to join the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra as an
associate conductor in 1965. That October Maestro Kunzel conducted his first
sold-out “8 O’Clock Pops” concert, marking his ascent as a modern
orchestral legend. The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, part of the
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, was then officially founded in 1977 with
Maestro Kunzel at the helm. For decades he led the orchestra, packing
houses in Cincinnati’s Music Hall and Riverbend Music Center, and also
gaining new fans the world over through tour performances, PBS television
specials and millions of recordings sold on the Telarc label.
Kunzel led the Cincinnati Pops on tours that include many concerts in
Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall and at the Blossom Music Festival. The
numerous international tours included a celebrated tour to China in 2005
(the first appearance of a pops orchestra in that country), highlighted by
concerts in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Maestro Kunzel
conducted the first ever pops concert in China in 1998 in Beijing with the
China National Symphony Orchestra. In August 2008, Erich Kunzel and
the Cincinnati Pops made an historic return to China to participate in the
Opening Festivities of the Summer Olympics.
in 1978, Mr. Kunzel recorded 90 albums on the Telarc label with the
Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. More than 55 of these albums appeared on
the Top 10 Billboard Charts. He was named Billboard Magazine's
Classical Crossover Artist of the Year for an unprecedented four consecutive
years. Several Grammy Awards, the distinguished Grand Prix Du Disque,
and the Sony Tiffany Walkman Award for “visionary recording activities”
highlighted his fantastic recording career of over 125 albums.
of Cincinnati, Maestro Kunzel appeared in more than 100 performances with
the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival, where he holds the
record for attendance – 22,000. Since 1991 Maestro Kunzel had led the
National Symphony on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol in PBS-TV’s nationally
televised Memorial Day and Fourth of July concerts. In 1996, the Fourth of
July concert drew a record crowd of nearly a million people to the Capitol,
as well as the largest viewing audience for a musical event in PBS history.
2005 Mr. Kunzel made his Viennese debut as part of the 100th
anniversary season of the Vienna Volksoper, conducting the Viennese premiere
of The Sound of Music. In 2004 he made his debut with the San Francisco
Opera conducting 12 performances of The Merry Widow. This production was
telecast on BBC Worldwide and PBS as part of the Great Performances series.
On several occasions Maestro Kunzel also conducted the World Super Orchestra
in concerts at the Tokyo International Music Festival. In January 2008
he led the Vienna Volksoper Symphony Orchestra in a Gala New Year’s Eve
Tour in eight concerts in Japan.
at Dartmouth, Harvard and Brown Universities, Mr. Kunzel studied with, and
was personal assistant to, the great French conductor Pierre Monteux.
He made his professional conducting debut in 1957 leading Pergolesi’s La
Serva Padrona with the Santa Fe Opera Company. By 1970, when Arthur
Fiedler invited him to conduct the Boston Pops for the first time, Mr.
Kunzel’s commitment to “pops” was assured. He led the Boston
Pops in more than 100 performances in Boston’s Symphony Hall and on tour
in the U.S. and England.
August of 2009 Mr. Kunzel was appointed honorary artistic director for the
2012 World Choir Games, which will host its first-ever event in the United
States. He was honored with the President’s Award from the Public
Relations Society of America’s Cincinnati Chapter in June of 2009, and in
2006 with the Irma Lazarus Award from the Ohio Arts Council. He received the
1994 Presidential Medal for Outstanding Leadership and Achievement from
Dartmouth College, his alma mater, and in 2006 he was elected into Phi Beta
Kappa, America’s oldest honor society. Dartmouth College honored him in
June 2007 with the Honorary Doctor of Arts degree. He also received
honorary degrees from University of Cincinnati, Xavier University, College
of Mount St. Joseph, Wilmington College and Northern Kentucky University.
He was named by the Ohio Arts Council as a special recipient of the 1991
Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Ohio. In 1995, Mr. Kunzel received
the 1995 Salvation Army “Others” award in recognition of his
contributions to the city of Cincinnati, the same year that the Cincinnati
MacDowell Society honored his contributions to the arts community by
awarding him the MacDowell Medal. In 1996 the Phi Delta Theta International
Fraternity presented him with its Distinguished Alumnus Award in recognition
of his outstanding achievements in the performing arts.
Kunzel was also Chair of the Greater Cincinnati Arts and Education Center,
an organization whose plan to build a new School for the Creative and
Performing Arts adjacent to Music Hall will be complete in 2010.