Seiji Ozawa (小澤 征爾, Ozawa Seiji?, born September 1, 1935) is a Japanese conductor, particularly noted for his interpretations of large-scale late Romantic works. He is most known for his work as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and principal conductor of the Vienna State Opera.
Seiji Ozawa was born on September 1, 1935 to Japanese parents in the city of Shenyang, Manchukuo in what is now northeastern China. When his family returned to Japan in 1944, he began studying piano with Noboru Toyomasu, heavily studying the works of Johann Sebastian Bach. After graduating from the Seijo Junior High School in 1950, Ozawa sprained his finger in a rugby game. Unable to continue studying the piano, his teacher at the Toho Gakuen School of Music (Hideo Saito), brought Ozawa to a life-changing performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, which ultimately shifted his musical focus from piano performance to conducting.
Almost a decade after the sports injury, Ozawa won the first prize at the International Competition of Orchestra Conductors in Besançon, France. His success in France led to an invitation by Charles Münch, then the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, to attend the Berkshire Music Center (now the Tanglewood Music Center). In 1960, shortly after his arrival, Ozawa won the Koussevitzky Prize for outstanding student conductor, Tanglewood's highest honor. Receiving a scholarship to study conducting with famous Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan, Ozawa moved to West Berlin. Under the tutelage of von Karajan, Ozawa caught the attention of prominent conductor Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein then appointed him as assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic where he remained for the next four years. While with the New York Philharmonic, he made his first professional concert appearance with the San Francisco Symphony in 1962.