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February 10, 2024

UMS & Santa Ono Remember Maestro Seiji Ozawa

Film strip of Seiji Ozawa conducting in Hill Auditorium, from the UMS archives.

Film strip of Seiji Ozawa conducting in Hill Auditorium, from the UMS archives.

UMS and the classical performing arts community mourn the passing of conductor Seiji Ozawa, who led the Boston Symphony Orchestra for nearly three decades and was one of the most recognized and important figures in classical music around the globe.

Ozawa conducted six times in UMS performance history between 1966 and 1996, in concerts with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. These programs can all be explored in our UMS Rewind archives.

Ozawa has another meaningful connection to the University of Michigan community through U-M president Santa Ono. Ono shares his fond memories below.

From University of Michigan President Santa Ono:

Seiji Ozawa’s death is a massive loss for classical music. He leaves a huge legacy through his recordings, the memories of his thousands of concerts, and the countless young musicians he mentored over the years. I was fortunate to listen to the Boston Symphony during his long tenure as Music Director there and also at Tanglewood.

Seiji Ozawa in 1963

Seiji Ozawa in 1963

He also had a connection to our family. Ozawa and my father were prodigious emerging stars in music and mathematics when they were in Paris. Naturally, they became friends as Japanese citizens in Paris. My mother tells me they were 2 naughty young men during those days: “Ozawa was jumping parking car to car! Takashi was driving Motorcycle around City of Paris! When he came to Philadelphia to conduct, we met him after concert. Ozawa said to Takashi, Onosan! You are USA now! Then he talked about his wife and his daughter (also a pianist of Shacho at Mitsui Bussan).”

I had the privilege of speaking with Ozawa on a plane on a business trip many years ago. He had just won the Kennedy Center honors. He was gracious and said that my parents should be very proud of me, just as he was of me as a Japanese citizen.

What a loss. My Aunt pointed out that it was snowing on the day he died. Ozawa apparently loved the snow, partially from the many years he enjoyed the snow in New England. He was also a huge Red Sox fan.

I said to my Aunt:


When you die surrounded by nature’s beauty, you aren’t dying, you are actually entering heaven.


— Santa Ono