James Taylor to Receive 2024 Tanglewood Medal

James Taylor performs at Tanglewood (Hilary Scott)

by Noah Peretz (Rogovoy Report intern)

(LENOX, Mass.) – James Taylor will receive the 2024 Tanglewood Medal from the Boston Symphony Orchestra in recognition of his extraordinary accomplishments as a singer-songwriter and performer as well as his many significant contributions to the BSO and Berkshires communities.

The Tanglewood Medal will be presented to Taylor during his July 3 concert with his All-Star Band, the first of his two sold-out shows in the Shed this summer. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Taylor’s first Tanglewood performance in 1974.

Since his first #1 hit in 1971, “You’ve Got a Friend,” Taylor has become one of the most acclaimed musical artists of his generation, winning six Grammy Awards and a Presidential Medal of Freedom and being inducted into both the Rock and Roll and Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Over the five decades since his first appearance at the festival, Taylor’s concerts have become a Tanglewood tradition. More recently, his performances have culminated with an Independence Day fireworks display. For many years James and his wife Kim, a BSO trustee and former staff member, have donated the proceeds from the July 4 show to support Tanglewood.

“For the past 50 years, James Taylor has been a familiar sight in Tanglewood — not only onstage, but in the audience at so many of our concerts. And I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that Tanglewood wouldn’t be the same without his efforts as an artist and an advocate. I look forward to joining him here in the ‘dreamlike’ Berkshires, immortalized in ‘Sweet Baby James,’ as we recognize his decades of service with the Tanglewood Medal. As both the CEO of this organization and a lifelong fan of his legendary work, I can think of no one more fitting to receive this honor,” BSO CEO Chad Smith said.

James Taylor performs for the first time at Tanglewood in 1974 (Heinz Weissenstein)

Taylor is the medal’s fourth recipient. Seiji Ozawa became the inaugural honoree in 2012. Ozawa, the BSO’s longest-serving music director, first performed at Tanglewood in 1960, when he first came to America from Japan to spend a summer as a Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, receiving training and exposure that launched his conducting career.

Ozawa, who passed away earlier this year at age 88, will be celebrated on August 6 at the BSO’s Tanglewood on Parade concert, an annual concert with the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra that he previously led.

In 2015 the medal was awarded to John Oliver, who founded the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in 1970 and prepared the chorus for more than 1000 performances, including appearances with the BSO at Symphony Hall, Tanglewood, Carnegie Hall, and on tour in Europe and the East Asia, as well as with visiting orchestras and as a solo ensemble. Oliver, who retired from his longtime role as the TMC’s director of vocal and choral activities in 2015, passed away in 2018.

Most recently, in 2022, the medal was given to Boston Pops Conductor Laureate and world-renowned composer John Williams in conjunction with his 90th birthday celebration at Tanglewood. Williams, who led the Pops from 1980 to 1993, is best known as the composer of the scores for over three dozen iconic films by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.

These scores have earned him 26 Grammy Awards, five Academy Awards, and three Emmy Awards. With film clips and music from his award-winning scores, John Williams Film Night is one of the most popular annual events at Tanglewood.

Taylor has many connections to the prior medal winners. He first appeared with Williams and the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall in 1993 and performed “Sweet Baby James” at the Pops’ Tanglewood concert celebrating Williams’ 90th birthday in 2022.

Taylor also was a guest performer in 1995 at the Tanglewood gala concert celebrating Ozawa’s 60th birthday. In 2012, he performed in the Tanglewood 75th anniversary concert that also included Williams, Oliver, and the TFC.

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