Leon Botstein earned his B. A. in history from the University of Chicago, M. A., and Ph. D. in European history from Harvard University. Among his many honors and awards are the Carnegie Corporation Academic Leadership Award, National Arts Club Gold Medal, Centennial Medal from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Austrian Cross of Honor First Class, American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts, as well as the Leon Levy Professor in the Arts and Humanities. He also serves as the board chair for the Central European University.
President of Bard College from 1975. Prior to Bard, he was the president of Franconia College, a lecturer in the Department of History at Boston University, and a special assistant to the president for the Board of Education in New York City.
Since 1992 he has been the music director and conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra founded by Leopold Stokowski. In 2003 he was appointed the music director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra / Israel Broadcasting Authority and became a conductor laurate in 2010. He is the conductor of a series of concerts in New York and is a frequent guest conductor of some of the leading world orchestras. President Botstein is the founder and artistic codirector of the Bard Music Festival as well as the music director of the pre-professional orchestra and master's degree program "Orchestra Now." He was also the music director of the American Russian Youth Orchestra which he created together with director of the Mariinsky Theatre, Valery Gergiev.
The author of numerous articles on history, music, culture and education which include the historical and political context for renowned musical figures such as Haydn, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Schoenberg, Shostakovich, and Copland, in which he illustrates the relationship of their achievements with disciplines such as visual arts and literature. Essays published as part of Princeton University Press’ annual Bard Music Festival volume. Editor, The Complete Brahms (W. W. Norton, 1999). Author Judentum und Modernitat: Essays zur Rolle der Juden in der Deutschen und Osterreichischen Kultur, 1848–1938 (1991), Russian translation Belveder, 2003. Editor of The Musical Quarterly, co-editor Jews and the City of Vienna, 1870–1938 (2004). In 2011, he gave an honorary lecture as part of the Tanner Lectures at the University of California Berkeley on the topic The History of Listening which is forthcoming by Basic Books. An anthology of essays in German was published in Vienna by Szolnay Verlag in 2013.
It is especially important to note the contribution of Leon Botstein in the development of international liberal education. In 1999 together with Ludmila Verbitskaya, he initiated the development of the first liberal arts program in Russia based at SPbU which prepares undergraduates in the "Arts and Humanities." On May 26, 2003, the Academic Council conferred Leon Botstein with an honorary doctorate from St. Petersburg University.