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September 22: Isaac Stern

September 21, 2016

Violinist Isaac Stern died at 81 on this date in 2001. Stern made his debut at age 15 with the San Francisco Symphony. He was the first American violinist to tour the USSR (in 1951), but in 1967 announced his refusal to return there until the Soviet government allowed artists to travel freely. He never performed publicly in Germany. In 1973, he performed for wounded Israeli soldiers during the Yom Kippur War, and eighteen years later, during the 1991 Gulf War, he played to a Jerusalem audience wearing gas masks. In 1979, he made an historic tour of China, captured in the film From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China. Stern was famous for his concerts and recordings and for championing brilliant young musicians, including cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Jian Wang and violinists Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman. In the 1960s, he organized the Citizens’ Committee to Save Carnegie Hall, which preserved the historic hall from demolition. In addition to two Grammy Awards, Stern received the National Medal of Arts in 1991 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992.

“The greatest wealth of this nation is not only the mergers of giant corporations or the possibility of further globalization of the infrastructure of the world. In the United States, our greatest single source of wealth is the minds and talent of our young people. Not to use it is stupid - to waste it is a crime.” --Isaac Stern