James Lawrence Levine (pronounced /lɨˈvaɪn/; born June 23, 1943) is an American conductor and pianist. He is currently the music director of the Metropolitan Opera and of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Levine's first performance conducting the Metropolitan Opera was on June 5, 1971, and as of July 2009 he has conducted more than 2,456 Met performances. In 1997, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Levine was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to a musical family: his maternal grandfather was a cantor in a synagogue, his father was a violinist, who led a dance band, and his mother was an actress. He began to play the piano as a small child. At the age of 10, he made his concert debut as soloist in Felix Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 2 at a youth concert of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
Levine subsequently studied music with Walter Levin, first violinist in the LaSalle Quartet. In 1956 he took piano lessons with Rudolf Serkin at the Marlboro Music School, Vermont. In the following year he began studies with Rosina Lhévinne at the Aspen Music School. After graduating from Walnut Hills High School, the acclaimed magnet school in Cincinnati, he entered the Juilliard School of Music in New York City in 1961, and took courses in conducting with Jean Morel. He graduated from the Juilliard School in 1964 and joined the American Conductors project connected with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.