New World Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas
Michael Tilson Thomas has always been a favorite conductor, not only because he is very good, but because he has style, and a sense of humor. Now in his 70s, he is still standing tall and elegant, full of energy and an obvious zest for life.
In 1987, which is to say thirty years ago, he founded the New World Symphony, in Miami Beach. The Symphony "prepares graduates of distinguished music programs for leadership roles" in professional orchestras. The Symphony has more than 1,150 alumni worldwide, each of whom was accepted for a three year fellowship after rigorous competition.
So, each year, Mr. Thomas, to whom his students fondly refer as "MTT," begins a new year with a crop of musicians in their late twenties or early thirties, one third of whom are new. He is of course becoming a year older each year, but his students stay the same age. What a clever man to arrange such a result. His students are eternally young, eternally keeping him vibrant. And he gets to perform with other amazing young people, like piano virtuoso Yuja Wang who performs in extremely beautiful dresses designed only for the very gorgeous.
Meanwhile, MTT is teaching his students all about timeless music written long ago--Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev. Old, but fresh, in MTT's hands.
I loved a recent concert, and the image on stage--this brilliant conductor and his enthusiastic acolytes. We assume he will not retire (again, perhaps? Was the founding of New World Symphony in some ways an early retirement?) but he has surely figured out his place in the universe in a way that gives us all an image of what modern retirement could be.