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Michael Tilson Thomas –  Classic Education for the New World 
 
Michael Tilson Thomas was born in Los Angeles, California, to the family of a Broadway stage manager and a teacher, children of the famous Yiddish theater star Boris Thomashevsky, who immigrated to America from Russia and performed in the Yiddish Theater District (Manhattan, NYC). 
 
He studied piano and composition at the University of Southern California. Later he continued education under Friedelind Wagner and, as a practice course, performed the duties of a Musical Assistant and Assistant Conductor at the Bayreuth Festival. And in 1969, after winning the Koussevitzky Prize, he was appointed Assistant Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, soon replacing the sick conductor mid-concert and suddenly gaining international fame at the age of only 24!
 
A long list of orchestras, both domestic and foreign (including the famous London Symphony Orchestra), that invited Thomas to conduct, followed; the successes of the young conductor are testified to by a trophy shelf full of most desirable prizes, including five (!) Grammy Awards for Best Orchestral Performance plus six more Grammys for Best Classical Albums - for the works performed by his orchestras and choirs from 1976 to 2013.
 
Thomas appeared in the national news headlines while conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl. When a helicopter flew over the venue, disrupting the concert with its loud noise, the angry conductor stormed offstage in the middle of the performance! Many years later, performing the same composition at the same venue, he famously started the performance with the phrase: "Now, where were we?"
 
In addition to being one of the most successful musicians of our time, Thomas is also an active promoter of music and eager educator. He led a series of Young People's Concerts with the New York Philharmonic between 1971 and 1977. In 1987 founded the New World Symphony in Miami - an academy aimed at preparing the most talented musicians for leadership roles in orchestras and ensembles all around the world. And in 2011 he took part in the creation of the Frank Gehry-designed New World Center in Miami Beach, Florida.
 
Unlike many other educators, Thomas does not forget that the world has changed, especially when it comes to mass media and the possibilities new media offer.In 2009 he helped create the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, an orchestra whose members were selected from 30 countries by way of 3000+ video auditions on the popular site. The Orchestra participated in a classical music summit in New York City at the Juilliard School for over three days. The event was crowned by a live concert at the prestigious Carnegie Hall, and was later made available on YouTube. 
 
In 2011 Thomas also conducted the "YTSO2", the second iteration of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra in Sydney, Australia.
 
Tilson Thomas is openly gay and lives in San Francisco with his partner of some thirty years, Joshua Robison.
 
Sources:
Morley Safer (February 5, 2006). "The Passion of Michael Tilson Thomas". 60 Minutes.
James R. Oestreich (February 10, 2002). "Michael Tilson Thomas: Maverick in a City of Same". The New York Times.
 

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