NEW YORK – Conductor Seiji Ozawa has received the Global Citizen Award from a U.S. public policy group for his “inspirational and historic contributions to the arts.”
Receiving the prize “is very nice, not only for me but for classical music, orchestral music and opera,” Ozawa said in a video message at the award ceremony Thursday in New York, which the 78-year-old did not attend due to health issues.
The Washington-based Atlantic Council bestowed the fourth annual prize on Ozawa for his “musical virtuosity” and educational initiatives, such as founding the Seiji Ozawa International Academy Switzerland in 2005.
Ozawa’s daughter, Seira, accepted the award in his absence and told the audience of about 350 people that her father was glad to be so recognized in what he calls “his home” — the United States. Ozawa spent 29 years as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra until 2002.
“He is a Japanese national treasure as well as an international treasure. Tonight we salute him for his timeless contribution to educating young musicians,” said Victor Chu, chairman of First Eastern Investment Group and an advisory board member of the council.
After undergoing surgery for esophageal cancer in 2010 and suspending performances in March 2012 due to health problems, Ozawa returned to the stage for the first time in about 1½ years at the Saito Kinen music festival in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, on Aug. 24.
The council also awarded this year’s prize to Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and Jordan’s Queen Rania Abdullah. Komorowski was honored for his work as a pro-democracy activist and Abdullah for her humanitarian work, such as establishing the Jordan Educational Initiative in 2003 to increase technology in schools.
“Each one of them has contributed significantly to making a better world,” the council’s interim chairman, Brent Scowcroft, said. “Each of them has inspired thousands of others to rise above day-to-day challenges to seek historic opportunity.”
Notable past recipients of the award include diplomat Sadako Ogata, Myanmar opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.