Musical prodigy Dean Dixon made history by becoming the first African-American to conduct the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. Although Dixon’s race barred him from success domestically, he went on to achieve global recognition for his talents. Dixon was born January 10, 1915 in Harlem to Caribbean parents. Dixon learned the violin at age three and became extremely adept at playing by age nine. Dixon’s talent made him into a local celebrity, and he made frequent radio appearances.
At age 13, he opened his own school of music to help his mother with bills. At 17, he enrolled at the prestigious Julliard School of Music, studying conducting under the tutelage of composer Albert Stoessel. After leaving Columbia University, Dixon found opportunities for conducting to be scarce so he began his own classical orchestra.
In 1938, when he was 23, Dixon made his professional debut drawing support from then-First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Mrs. Roosevelt famously supported the work of Black classical musicians such as Marian Anderson, and she gave Dixon a glowing endorsement in her syndicated music column after a concert at the Heckscher Theater.
While that endorsement should have been a career changing moment for Dixon, his race remained a strong barrier. However, his presence in the classical world could no longer be denied and eventually, he caught the attention of the New York Philharmonic. On August 10, 1941, three years after his debut, he conducted the symphony. Despite that achievement, none of the professional orchestras in the U.S. wanted to relinquish conducting duties to a Black man. so Dixon left the country in 1949.
He was the first American to conduct two orchestras in Europe: the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in Sweden (1953-1960) and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra in Germany (1960-1974). Between 1964 and 1967, Dixon was also the conductor of Sydney Symphony Orchestra in Australia. So sought after was Dixon that he was booked for guest conducting engagements three years in advance.
Being seen as an elite American conductor became his preferred distinction, although he was certainly proud of his achievements as a Black man despite the early struggles he faced. In 1970, Dixon returned to the United States to conduct the New York Philharmonic once more, but this time with the notoriety and accolades he earned while working abroad. Dixon died in Switzerland in 1976. He was 61 years old.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (6/18-6/24)
25 photos Launch gallery
1. Me & the homie @jaleelwhite #RujohnFoundation Happy to be in Jamaica! Good times
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5. Good Morning. Early day in Detroit! Making press rounds for @thebossnetwork's Ladies That Lead Tour. Thank you @traycemadre and @colourbynumbr for my glam.
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6. POWER the best show on TV @djenvy, Queens we so big out here. #EFFENVODKA #FRIGO
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7. They said u lost a step, wasn't explosive as once was, the best days was in the real view, questioned your drive, your leadership, your commitment, you don't have killer instinct, going back home is the worst mistake in your career, he got the coach fired, players traded, won't work between him and Kyrie, Him and Kev won't work, love your teammates to much, there's no way he can deliver a championship in his hometown, etc etc etc.... But guess what THATS NONE OF MY BUSINESS #StriveForGreatness #ThisOneIsForTheLand #PutSomeRespeckOnMyName Hahahaha!!! Yes sir
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8. Oooooh weeee this man right here is responsible for at least three of our four babies!! #JOE ❤❤❤🎤 #rnb #king #voicelikebutter #ForPeetesSake
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9. Hanging with my @abcnetwork family! @abcunclebuck tonite y'all check us out ! @anthonyanderson @traceeellisross
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10. My broski ( @sayeedshahidi ) and I are on Top 5 Live on @go90 at 5 (which is super duper close)! Make sure to tune in :) #UncleBuck #Blackish
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11. Lights out💤 #GoodNight
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12. Late nights mornings
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13. Ran into the lovely talented @siedahgarrett on this brutiful favvuz deh!
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14. #halal #love #thedargans #kattwilliamsSHOW #mashallah when that Jennah piece HIT!! @sweetjennahcollection glasses by @baddieglamaccessories LIZ 😍 @dynamiteko top @dazzledmv and jeans @thevision414 and shoes: @louboutinworld
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15. Big Hair and Optical Illusions #OceanDrive #MiamiLiving #coverparty
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16. MAMA and THE SAVAGES ... ⚓️ #supportyourlocalgirlgang
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17. From the bottom of my ❤️, thank you new followers & old! & hello fellow night owls! #grateful #racheltrue #naturalhair #curlyhair #curlygirl #healthyhair
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18. I feel so grateful because I met these amazing young minds, visiting from Houston TX, during their college tour stop today at #usc.These students are ALL extraordinary and embody academic excellence so I'm humbled to have shared a few moments with them to applaud and celebrate their bright futures ahead! Thank you @EmergeFellows for inviting me to speak and blessing me with your love and attention this afternoon!
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19. Happy Fathers Day Pops. U taught me how to be a man. Lessons of love, hard work & gratefulness. Sorry the fishing didn't stick. LOL. I Love U!
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20. Sky Zone and Ice Cream! Best Fathers Day Ever!! Photo credit @mariahcarey
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21. Look what finally came in the mail 😎 #mtvmovieawards2016 💥+🌽! #straightouttacompton
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22. Claudia Jordan: ....
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23. 'Member that time I almost knocked a bajillion dollar camera off the car? Really? Yeah, me neither! #Greenleaf Episode 2 comin atcha!
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24. Full of love. #birthday #Cabo
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25. Oh hey! Look who just joined Snapchat
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