It’s no surprise American conductor, pianist, and composer Michael Tilson Thomas chose a career in music. He comes from a family of performers: his grandparents were noted Yiddish theatre stars Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky and his great-grandfather, Pincus, was an actor and playwright. He also comes from a long line of cantors and his father was a poet and painter by day, and a Broadway stage manager by night.
Tilson Thomas has recorded extensively with the San Francisco Symphony, including all nine Mahler symphonies. He is also highly regarded for his interpretations of Aaron Copland, Charles Ives, and Steve Reich.
Music education is also a big project for Tilson Thomas. He leads “Keeping Score”, which teaches children about composers, and he conducted two versions of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra which brought together musicians from around the world for a week of rehearsing and performing. He also founded New World Symphony in Miami Beach, Florida, an orchestral academy for gifted young musicians to prepare them for careers as orchestra players.
A couple of months ago, Tilson Thomas announced he would step down from his post at the San Francisco Symphony in 2020, after his 25th season. “It will be my 75th year when this happens, and my 25th as music director. I have volumes of almost-completed compositions, stories, and poems … all sorts of things. For years I’ve been thinking if I’m going to devote time to making sure these things are in good shape before I’m outta here, this would be a good moment to do that.”
Here Tilson Thomas presents an episode of “Keeping Score: Revolutions in Music”, chatting about Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. It’s easy to follow, and very engaging.