Meet New World Symphony Artistic Director, Composer and Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas
By Robin Jay
The legendary American conductor, pianist and composer, Michael Tilson Thomas is truly a musical treasure in South Florida. He is the Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, a Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, and also the Co-founder and Artistic Director of the New World Symphony (NWS) in Miami Beach. South Florida Opulence interviewed Mr. Tilson Thomas for an inside look at this unprecedented program.
“For many years, I worked with young musicians at music festivals all over the world. I met many talented young musicians who didn’t know what they were going to do after finishing their studies at conservatories, or afterward, what their careers might be,” Tilson Thomas said. “I was very fortunate to meet Ted and Lin Arison, and together, we wanted to provide a place where young musicians could focus on developing their careers, while imagining the future of classical music. We’ve created a very special academy where this can happen, at the New World Symphony.”
New World Symphony
Launched in 1987, the NWS prepares gifted graduates of distinguished music programs for leadership positions in orchestras and ensembles around the world. The program has become so prestigious that, for its Fellows, getting in is tougher than getting into Harvard.
“In conservatory, emphasis is placed on technique, and at New World Symphony, our Fellows are excellent technically, but they’re also encouraged to think about what the music means, to get past the notes and communicate the points that composers took the time to imagine and write down,” Tilson Thomas explained.
The Launch of a Legend
As a part of a third generation family to follow an artistic career, some may wonder what life was like growing up among
such a talented household. Tilson Thomas remembers vividly the moment he knew for himself that he wanted to become a composer.
“It was my family’s greatest fear that I would go into show business,” Tilson Thomas humored. “There was always music in the house, and it was therefore always a part of my life. I have a distinct memory, when I was very young, of sitting at a piano and seeing the sunlight filter in through a window, and I would compose music to the dancing particles caught in the light. I pursued music in school, and then my life just made the turn it did. And once it started happening for me, my family was really happy about it.”
Tilson Thomas says his most rewarding achievements include touring the world with the London Symphony Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony, receiving the National Medal of Arts Award from President Obama, winning his first of 11 Grammy Awards, and, of course, launching the New World Symphony, the Lincoln Theatre and the New World Center.
“In thinking about the future, I fully believe there are people who are now 17 years old who will be the ones who will grasp what to do with what we’ve created and will drive classical music into the future,” Tilson Thomas continued.
Continuing the Legacy
Finding novel ways to appeal to younger audiences, the NWS produces evenings like Pulse: Late Night at the New World Symphony, which presents DJ music alongside classical music; half-hour mini-concerts, which combine activities such as a yoga class with a concert, or a group of cyclists riding together to the concert; Encounters concerts, which describe the environment and context of the music through an onstage host and projected video; and WALLCAST concerts, in which they project concerts taking place inside the concert hall onto the grand front wall for audiences outside in the park.
“We want to include everyone in the dialogue of what this music is; it’s very much a shared experience – shared by teachers with their students, passed down generation to generation, and shared between the performers and audiences,” Tilson Thomas said.
Throughout 2014, NWS will present a variety of performances, including a New Work concert on April 26 that explores the intersection of different cultural genres – poetry, film and classical music. For a schedule or tickets, go to www.newworldcenter.com.
Encore Mr. Tilson Thomas!