As a conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas might be best known for his interpretation of the emotionally charged music of Gustav Mahler. But his legacy won’t stop at his Grammy-winning recordings of the complete Mahler symphony cycle with his home orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony. He’s also the founder of the New World Symphony, an orchestra that helps to educate young and gifted musicians as obsessed with their craft as he. Since its establishment in 1987, New World Symphony has launched the careers of more than 700 young musicians, and in its new Miami Beach concert hall designed by Frank Gehry, it’s bringing well-played classical music to a truly popular audience.
He’s the guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra — and the artistic director of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra (YTSO), a 96-member ensemble selected from online video auditions. Tilson Thomas conducted the YTSO at Carnegie Hall in 2009 and in 2011 in Sydney, Australia. And he’s the creator of the Keeping Score education program for public schools, which uses PBS TV, web, radio and DVDs, and a K-12 curriculum to make classical music more accessible. In 2010, Tilson Thomas was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the US government.