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Acclaimed cellist Carlos Prieto ’58 receives Muh Alumni Award

Award honors MIT alumni achievements in the humanities, arts, and social sciences
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Internationally acclaimed cellist Carlos Prieto ’58 is the recipient of the 2014 Robert A. Muh Alumni Award, presented biennially by MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS). On May 6, Prieto will give the Muh Award lecture, "The Adventures of a Cello," at MIT and perform an excerpt from J.S. Bach's Cello Suite No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1009.

"I was delighted to learn that Carlos Prieto is to receive the Muh Alumni Award from MIT," says Peter Child, head of MIT Music and Theater Arts and a professor of music. "Carlos is a model for generations of MIT music students who, like him, seek ways to balance their professional level of musicianship and talent with their commitment to the science and engineering fields. Music and Theater Arts has been the beneficiary of many years of wise counsel and advice from Carlos. It is especially satisfying, therefore, to be part of this acknowledgement of his talent and accomplishment."

"The Muh Award is a singular opportunity for us to recognize MIT graduates who have made extraordinary contributions, and whose life work calls on deep knowledge in the disciplines of our school,” the Deborah Fitzgerald, the Kenan Sahin Dean of SHASS. “We are delighted to present Carlos Prieto with this year's award."

One of the world’s most respected cellists, Prieto holds degrees from MIT in engineering and economics. And, like many MIT students, he was also able to pursue a serious study of music at MIT. As The Tech wrote in a 1997 interview, Prieto found the Institute to be a musically rewarding place that nurtured his musical talents. "While I was at MIT," Prieto says, "I kept playing because I was a member of the MIT orchestra. They also had me as a soloist in the Haydn D major concerto. I would also play a lot of chamber music — almost every weekend I would play."

After graduation from MIT, Prieto took a position in an iron and steel company in his native Mexico, and eventually became head of the enterprise. All the while, he continued his engagement with music, and, after some years leading the company, he embarked on a dedicated career as a cellist.

Prieto has recorded more than 90 compositions, including the complete Bach suites and works by Beethoven and Shostakovich, and he has recorded 13 CDs devoted to cello music from Latin America and Spain. He has also written seven books, which have been translated into English, Russian, and Portuguese. In 2011 he was elected member of the Academy of the Spanish Language.

Prieto’s other accomplishments and honors include the Order of the Arts and Letters in the grade of officer from France; the Achievement Award of the Mexican Cultural Institute of New York; the Eva Janzer Award, entitled “Chevalier du Violoncelle,” from the University of Indiana in recognition of his “exceptional contribution to the world of cello playing”; the Cultural Leadership Citation from the School of Music of Yale University; and the Mozart Medal from the Austrian Ambassador in Mexico.

In 2006, Prieto received the title of “Master Emeritus of Venezuelan Youth” from J. A. Abreu, president and founder of “El Sistema,” Caracas, and the Order of Civil Merit from the King of Spain. In 2007, the president of Mexico awarded him the National Prize for the Arts. In 2008, the Russian government awarded him the Pushkin Medal for his contributions to Russian culture and arts.

"The MIT mission is to serve humanity,” says Marcus Thompson, an MIT professor of music, “and the arts provide a powerful way for our students to grow in knowledge and understanding of the human condition."

MIT's music program provides an extraordinary range of musical experiences to MIT undergraduates — from classes for beginners to the conservatory-level Emerson Program. Some 60 percent of MIT’s incoming freshmen are active musicians, many with advanced musical training. About 1,100 MIT students participate in the music program each year, studying performance, composition and theory, and music history, and engaging in classical, world music, and jazz performance groups.

The Robert A. Muh Alumni Award was first announced in October 2000 at the 50th anniversary celebration of SHASS. Muh, a life member of the MIT Corporation and past chair of the Humanities Visiting Committee, endowed the award to honor an MIT graduate who has made significant contributions to education, scholarship or performance, academic administration, or arts management in the humanities, arts, or social sciences. 

Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications
Editorial and Design Director: Emily Hiestand
Senior Writer: Kathryn O'Neill
Communications Assistant: Kierstin Wesolowski

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