Awarded: November 2, 2015
(b. Nov. 2, 1936)
Marta Casals Istomin, born Marta Angelica Montanez Martinez, is a distinguished figure in the arts as cellist, educator and artistic director. She studied string instruments during her childhood in Humacao, Puerto Rico. She continued her education at Marymount School in New York and studied cello at the Mannes Conservatory of Music. In 1954, she traveled to France to study with the famed cellist Pablo Casals and later married him. When Casals founded the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra and the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music, she became integrally involved in this work. After Casals died in 1973, she was elected co-chairman and artistic director of the Casals Festival Organization and began an extensive stringed-instrument program for youngsters. In 1975, she married the renowned pianist Eugene Istomin. From 1980 to 1990 she served as artistic director of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., broadening its overall programming, adding a profusion of new offerings in music, opera and dance, and installing a number of educational programs. In France, from 1990 to 1997, she directed the Rencontres Musicales d’Évian festival, and from 1992-2005 she was president of the Manhattan School of Music. She has served on numerous boards and delegations in support of classical music and the arts. Always a strong advocate for maintaining the highest standards, she has worked tirelessly to bring music and the arts across national boundaries and to every level of society.