Michael Tilson Thomas is Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, Founder and Artistic Director of the New World Symphony and Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. Born in Los Angeles, he began his formal studies at the University of Southern California, thereafter working with Stravinsky, Boulez, Stockhausen and Copland on premieres of their compositions at Los Angeles' Monday Evening Concerts. During this same period he was the pianist and conductor for Gregor Piatigorsky and Jascha Heifetz.
In 1969, after winning the Koussevitzky Prize at Tanglewood, he was appointed Assistant Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He was Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic from 1971-79 and a Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1981 to 1985. His guest conducting includes appearances with the major orchestras of Europe and the United States.
His recorded repertoire of more than 120 discs includes works by composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Mahler, Prokofiev and Stravinsky as well as his pioneering work with the music of Charles Ives, Carl Ruggles, Steve Reich, John Cage, Ingolf Dahl, Morton Feldman, George Gershwin, John McLaughlin and Elvis Costello. He recently finished recording the complete orchestral works of Gustav Mahler with the San Francisco Symphony.
As Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra from 1988 to 1995, Mr. Tilson Thomas led the orchestra on regular tours in Europe, the United States and Japan as well as at the Salzburg Festival. In London he and the orchestra have mounted major festivals focusing on the music of Steve Reich, George Gershwin, Johannes Brahms, Toru Takemitsu, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov and the School of St. Petersburg, Claude Debussy and Gustav Mahler. As Principal Guest Conductor of the LSO, he continues to lead the orchestra in concerts in London and on tour.
His fifteen-year tenure as Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony has been broadly covered by the international press with feature stories in Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Times of London and The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung among many others. With the San Francisco Symphony he has presented eight summer festivals including ones devoted to the music of Mahler, Stravinsky, Wagner and American Mavericks. With the San Francisco Symphony he has made numerous tours of Europe, United States and the Far East.