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Lee Koonce Wins League of American Orchestras' Gold Baton

Koonce will be honored at the League's National Conference in June


Arts leader Lee Koonce has been announced as the 2024 recipient of the Gold Baton — the highest honor given by the League of American Orchestras. Koonce will receive the award at the opening session of the League's National Conference, to be held between June 6 and June 8, 2024.

Koonce is presently Senior Advisor at Gateways Music Festival, which has a particular focus on connecting and supporting professional classical musicians of African descent. Koonce has been associated with the festival in a number of capacities since 1997, and during that time, he has helped it to grow from an all-volunteer local organization into a festival of national significance.

Gateways Music Festival sold out its Carnegie Hall debut, and it is now setting up tours, residencies, and other activities for the coming seasons. In 2021, the Gateways Music Festival Orchestra became the first all-black orchestra to appear at Carnegie Hall.

Previous recipients of the Gold Baton include Leonard Bernstein (1959), Pierre Boulez (2000), Aaron Copland (1978), Yo-Yo Ma (2018), William Schuman (1985), and John Williams (2006).

"Gateways Music Festival’s tremendous contribution to the orchestra field is a testament to Lee Koonce’s vision and leadership," said Simon Woods, President and CEO of the League of American Orchestras. "Gateways has showcased Black orchestral musicians and composers, provided a refuge where art is created in fellowship, and demonstrated the importance of inclusivity and representation to countless young people."

"From his many successes at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chicago’s Sherwood Conservatory of Music, and New York City’s Third Street Music School Settlement to his time at Gateways, Lee has always worked to advance orchestras’ work in the community," Woods continued. "He has been an important member of the League community, serving over the years as League Board Member, Essentials of Orchestra Management faculty member, and leader of the Community Engagement Leadership Committee, among other leadership roles."

"I’m thrilled that we are presenting Lee Koonce with the Gold Baton."

"I am deeply grateful to the League for this incredible honor," Koonce said. "Being recognized in this way is a testament to the support and inspiration I’ve received from countless individuals throughout my career. I share this recognition with all those who have believed in me, contributed to my journey, and supported the organizations that are closest to my heart."

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