Salonen, who heads the Los Angeles Philharmonic, received the award in New York on Monday evening. Musical America has handed out the prize since 1960. Previous winners include Leonard Bernstein and Placido Domingo. Last year the prize went to the Finnish soprano Karita Mattila.
Salonen has been praised for his talent as a modern composer and his ability to fluently change styles. He has also conducted numerous premieres.
He has received several prestigious international awards during his career. In 2003, the Sibelius Academy presented him with an honorary doctorate degree.