With music filling his ears, the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra (HRO) Conductor James Yannatos will retire after 45 years by giving his final concert on April 17.
Yannatos came to Harvard in 1964 after being handpicked by HRO musicians to helm the centuries-old group. His conductorship was not considered permanent, but after his first year Yannatos was given a lectureship without a time limit.
Born in 1929 in New York City, Yannatos earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yale and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. He has studied with some of the greatest teachers and musical luminaries, including Darius Milhaud, Nadia Boulanger, Paul Hindemith, and Leonard Bernstein.
“All of them have taught me to see things in a whole new way, and working at the University has allowed me to be a total musician,” Yannatos told the Gazette in 2004.
Yannatos is also an avid violinist and composer, crafting pieces inspired by key cultural and political events, such as the Tiananmen Square massacre and the Sept. 11 attacks.
On Yannatos’ Harvard-run Web site, he says: “I have felt compelled to use my musical voice to express my deep concern for issues that continually divide nations and people — war, poverty, and ignorance — while illuminating the beauty of life and the human spirit.”
He has written for the stage — opera and theater — and for television, chamber, choral, and vocal works, and has published music for children including four volumes of “Silly and Serious Songs,” based on the words of children.
“It has been a great run,” said Yannatos. “Working with dedicated and talented Harvard students all these years. … I have greatly enjoyed it.”