Thomas, Michael Tilson

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 has been guest conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic (1981–85), cofounder and artistic director (1987–) of Miami's New World Symphony, an orchestral academy, and principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra (1987–94). As musical director of the San Francisco Symphony from 1994 to 2020, Thomas, who is known for his sometimes brash personality, flamboyant conducting style, broad repertoire, and devotion to modern American music, attracted a large and diverse concert audience.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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