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Maurice Peress (March 18, 1930 – December 31, 2017) was an American orchestra conductor, educator and author.

Maurice Peress
Born(1930-03-18)March 18, 1930
Manhattan, New York
DiedDecember 31, 2017(2017-12-31) (aged 87)
Manhattan, New York
Occupation(s)Conductor, educator, author

After serving as assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein beginning in 1961, Peress went on to stand as leader of the orchestra in Corpus Christi, Texas in 1962. In 1970, he also became leader for two years of the Austin Symphony Orchestra. In 1974, he left Texas to take over the Kansas City Philharmonic, where he remained until 1980. He conducted Leonard Bernstein's MASS in 1971, 1973 and 2014.

Maurice Peress had also extensively conducted orchestras internationally, including the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra in 1980, the Vienna State Opera in 1981, the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia of Rome in 1988, the Brno Orkester of the Czech Republic in 1997, the FOK Orkester at the Prague Spring Festival in 1988, the Shanghai Radio and Television Orchestra in 1996-97, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 1998, and the Barbican Centre Orchestra in London in 1999. In the 2000s, he toured extensively in China, leading the Shanghai Opera Orchestra, the China National Symphony in Beijing and the Shenzhen Symphony. From 2010 to 2014 he served as the music director and conductor of the New Britain Symphony Orchestra in New Britain, Connecticut.

In 1984, he became a professor at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College. Though he had himself a Bachelor of Arts degree from New York University, he established a Master of Arts degree in conducting there. He also conducted the Queens College Orchestra.

Peress was the author of Dvorak to Duke Ellington: A Conductor Explores America's Music and Its African American Roots, published in 2004 by Oxford University Press.[1] Peress worked with Ellington in revising the ending of Black, Brown and Beige, which he debuted with the American Jazz Orchestra in 1988.[2]

Maurice Peress died in Manhattan on December 31, 2017[3][4] and leaves three children, all in the arts: Lorca Peress, a theatrical director; Paul Peress, a composer and drummer; and Anika Paris (née Peress), a singer/songwriter.


  1. ^ "Dvorakto Duke Ellington". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2009-01-03.
  2. ^ Fraser, C. Gerald (1988-03-03). "A rare Ellington work is revived". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-03.
  3. ^ Former Austin Symphony conductor Maurice Peress dies
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