Wednesday, March 6, 2013 'James DePreist remembered at Union Baptist Church'

James DePreist Bust by Rip Caswell on display at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland, Oregon

Philadelphia Orchestra violinists Paul Roby (left) and William Polk perform Mozart Monday at a memorial for conductor James DePreist.

James A. DePreist is featured at

Philly.comMonday, March 4, 2013, 4:38 PM
 James DePreist.
After a career that brought him to orchestra podiums in Helsinki, Rotterdam and Los Angeles, James Anderson DePreist was memorialized Monday near 19th and Fitzwater Streets in South Philadelphia at his boyhood church, steps from his onetime home.

"Jimmy was the prince of our family," cousin Sandra Grymes said of DePreist, who died Feb. 8 at 76. He lost his father at age 6, she told the gathering of about 80 friends and family members at Union Baptist Church, and was raised by three Anderson women who were "able to make space for him to do his own thing." One of them was his aunt Marian Anderson, the celebrated contralto.

DePreist's mother wanted him to be a lawyer, but Anderson "exercised a quiet subversion," feeding his interest in music and giving him orchestral scores.
"Jimmy grew up listening to her stories - the acclaim, the discrimination," said Grymes. "He was the son she never had, and she was his muse." She also recalled the episode in the 1960s when, on a tour of Southeast Asia, DePreist contracted polio. "Aunt Marian called Bobby Kennedy, and Jimmy was flown home on a military plane being used to transport soldiers in the Vietnam War."

DePreist lost the use of his legs, and as an African American who conducted from a seated position, he was a rare sight in the orchestral world, if a welcome one. 

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