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Thomas, Michael Tilson


THOMAS, MICHAEL TILSON (1944– ), U.S. conductor and pianist. Thomas was born in Hollywood, his grandparents having been leading players in the New York Yiddish theater. He entered the University of Southern California in 1962, studying both music and scientific subjects. While a student, he accompanied *Heifetz, played at *Piatigorsky's master classes, acted as conducting assistant to Pierre Boulez, and conducted student orchestras. He became chief conductor of the Ojai Festival in 1968 and 1969. After Thomas won the Koussevitzky Prize (1968), his debut came unexpectedly in October 1969, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, when William *Steinberg was taken ill, and in consequence he was appointed the orchestra's assistant conductor in 1970. Thomas was music director of the Buffalo so (1971–79), led the New York po Young People's Concerts on cbs Television (1971–74), and was principal guest conductor at the Los Angeles po from 1981 to 1985. He was founder and artistic director of the Florida-based New World so, which gave its first concert in 1988. From 1988 to 1995 Thomas was principal conductor of the lso. During that time he established an international reputation for innovation and breadth of repertory. In 1990 Thomas and Bernstein co-founded the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo. Five years later Thomas became music director of San Francisco so where he performed a great deal of 20th-century music, especially of the American composers. His performance was impressive for its intelligence, emotional energy, and immediate contact with the audiences (whom he often addressed from the podium). Thomas's composition From the Diary of Anne Frank, for narrator and orchestra, commissioned by unicef, premiered in 1990.


ng2; M.T. Thomas, Viva Voce: Conversations with Edward Seckerson, (1994).

[Max Loppert /

Yulia Kreinin (2nd ed.)]

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