Northwestern Press

Thursday, June 4, 2020

USC honors Wittry with alumus award

Wednesday, May 1, 2013 by The Press in Focus

The University of Southern California Thornton School of Music will present the Outstanding Alumnus Award to conductor Diane Wittry as part of the School's Honors Convocation May 16. She will also address the USC Thornton graduating class the following day during the Commencement Ceremony.

Wittry, who graduated with honors from USC Thornton in 1983 and received a Master's from the school two years later, is music director of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra.

She was recently named the artistic director for the United States as part of the International Cultural Exchange Program for Classical Musicians through the Sarajevo Philharmonic.

She is artistic director for Pizazz Music, an ensemble known for bringing classical music to people in original ways.

Wittry is the author of "Beyond the Baton: What Every Conductor Needs to Know," published by Oxford University Press and nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2007.

"We were trained really well to become musicians and to play in orchestras, but we were not taught to be community leaders and to understand the larger role of a music director within an arts organization. The book helps with that area of our training and has become a standard for the conducting industry."

"We are thrilled to celebrate Diane Wittry with the Outstanding Alumnus Award," said Robert Cutietta, Dean of the USC Thornton School of Music. "Her work as a conductor, music director, composer, and author is a perfect example of how her entrepreneurial spirit has led to a successful career, serving as a model for others to follow."

A second book, "Baton Basics: Communicating Music Through Gestures," has recently been accepted for publication by Oxford.

At Thornton, Wittry studied with Daniel Lewis and was the recipient of a conducting fellowship from the Aspen Music Festival. Her other teachers and mentors include fellow Thornton alum Michael Tilson Thomas, Gustav Meier and Jorge Mester.

"I really enjoyed my experience," said Wittry. "The conducting program was one of the top four programs in the country and nationally-recognized. Getting into that program was, for me, life-changing. It was the moment where I said, 'OK, I'm really going to do this.'"

Past winners of USC Thornton's Outstanding Alumnus Award have included 2007 National Medal of Arts recipient Morten Lauridsen; Grant Gershon, music director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale and resident conductor of the Los Angeles Opera; the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet; conductor Michael Tilson Thomas; and opera star Marilyn Horne.