James Dixon led NEC's orchestra and wind ensemble for 20 concerts during the 1959/1960 and 1960/1961 school years, following Richard Burgin and preceding Frederik Prausnitz as NEC's orchestra director. Born in Iowa, Dixon returned there not long after his time teaching at NEC, and made a significant impact on the regional music scene as director of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra for 29 years and conductor of the University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra for 40 years. Dixon received the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Medal for conductors in 1955, and was a student and protege of Dimitri Mitropoulos, who made Dixon his heir, leaving him his scores. Apart from NEC and his positions in Iowa, Dixon also held conducting posts with the Seventh Army Symphony in Germany and the Minneapolis (now Minnesota) Orchestra. His short time at NEC, during which he presented the Boston premieres of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10 and key works by Webern, was predictive of his time in Iowa, where he conducted world premieres of nearly 40 new works. The 1960 NEC concert that included the Shostakovich premiere was a scholarship benefit where Dixon yielded the baton to composer Walter Piston, then a professor at Harvard, for Piston's 1937 Concertino for piano and orchestra featuring its original soloist, Jesus Maria Sanroma '20 DP, '63 hon. D.M., a renowned alumnus who had also once taught at NEC. This concert was broadcast live by Boston's WGBH radio as well as WAMC, the Albany educational radio station.
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