Thomas, Michael Tilson, 1944–, American conductor, composer, and pianist, b. Hollywood, Calif. A musical prodigy, he won Tanglewood's Koussevitsky Prize at 24 and shortly thereafter (1969) made his conducting debut with the Boston Symphony. Although he was a protégé of Leonard Bernstein and an often controversial musical director of the Buffalo Philharmonic (1971–79), until the 1990s many felt that his career had not lived up to its early promise. He was guest conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic (1981–85), a founder of Miami's New World Symphony (1987), and principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra (1987–94). He became musical director of the San Francisco Symphony in 1994 and has been very successful at attracting a large and diverse concert audience. Thomas is known for his sometimes brash personality, flamboyant conducting style, broad repertoire, and devotion to modern American music.
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