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Music and Emotion Through Time

  • Broadcast in classical Music
Coast to Coast Live

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Born in Los Angeles, Michael Tilson Thomas studied conducting and composition with Ingolf Dahl at the University of Southern California and, as a young musician, worked with artists including Igor Stravinsky and Aaron Copland. In his mid-20s, he became Assistant Conductor—and later Principal Guest Conductor—of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He subsequently served as Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic, Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.

In 1987, he co-founded the New World Symphony (NWS), a postgraduate orchestral academy in Miami Beach dedicated to preparing young musicians of diverse backgrounds for leadership roles in classical music. He has worked with more than 1,200 NWS Fellows, many of whom have gone on to major musical careers.

He became Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) in 1995, ushering in a period of significant growth and heightened international recognition for the orchestra. He led the SFS in championing contemporary and American composers alongside classical masters, and, as Music Director Laureate, he returns to conduct the orchestra each season.

His discography includes more than 120 recordings, and his television work includes series for the BBC and PBS, the New York Philharmonic’s Young People’s Concerts, and numerous televised performances. His profile Michael Tilson Thomas: Where Now Is aired on PBS’ American Masters series in the fall of 2020.

Throughout his career, he has been an active composer, with major works including From the Diary of Anne Frank, premiered with narrator Audrey Hepburn, and Meditations on Rilke. Both appear on SFS Media’s recent Grammy® Award-winning recording of his music. In September 2022, Avie Records released an album of solo piano works performed by John Wilson .

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