My South Florida: Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas

Tilson, the co-founder and artistic director at New World Symphony, as well as music director of the San Francisco Symphony, tells us how he spends his perfect day in Miami.

A Miami resident for 26 years, 11-time Grammy Award winner Tilson Thomas has contributed to the city's rich musical history with the formation of the New World Symphony in 1987, as well as America's Orchestral Academy with Ted and Lin Arison. Nurturing musicians to reach their fullest potential, the symphony has since traveled the globe and performed in some of the world's greatest venues. However, it's right here at home that residents are proud to call it its hometown musical gem.

What music did you grow up listening to as a child?

I listened to all kinds of music—classical, rock, world music and a lot of musical theater. My grandparents, Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky, were stars of the Yiddish Theater in America so I loved that brand of Broadway, Tin Pan Alley.

Proudest achievements in your career?

Touring the world with the London Symphony Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony, receiving the National Medal of Arts Award from President Obama, winning my first of 11 Grammy Awards, launching the New World Symphony and guiding its young musicians at this crucial moment in their lives.

What sets apart Miami's music scene from other cities?

Miami’s great range of age and its extraordinary diverse cultural population (have) created a scene where many different kinds of music coexist.  It is a tremendously fun musical city.

Best music memory in Miami? 

There are many, but a few of the most memorable include the first rehearsal and performance of the New World Symphony 26 years ago (in the Gusman Theater), our spectacular concert with Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine, the first concert in the Lincoln Theatre, and the first concert in the New World Center.

Favorite place to eat out?

AltaMare on Lincoln Road.

Favorite Miami landmark?

The Lincoln Theatre

What's your fondest Miami memory?

Watching a manatee swim leisurely by my home. What a remarkable animal.

Michael Tilson's Perfect Day

6 am: A Morning Walk Through Local Parks

I like to wake before dawn to let out the dogs and go for a walk around the Sunset Islands on the inland waterways, or to a local park such as South Pointe Park

7 am: Plan the Day by the Water

I read the newspapers and eat breakfast sitting on the dock while looking over musical scores and what the day’s schedule will be.

9 am: Blossoming Musicians

I then enjoy going to the New World Center, the recently completed Frank Gehry-designed home of the New World Symphony in Miami Beach. The New World Symphony is an orchestral academy of about 90 super talented young musicians on their way to outstanding professional careers. Each day there will be a demanding schedule of rehearsals, lessons, one-on-one coaching sessions and counseling both in-person and online. Through video conferencing technology we’re linked with musicians all over the world and our classes include people in many countries.

12:30 pm: Lincoln Road Adventures

I love to walk down Lincoln Road to Books & Books, where I can shop, have some lunch, and pick up my next read.  I still do love the feel of a good book in my hands. 

4:30 pm: Fish and Art

Before I go home I like to stop at some of the small markets where sports fisherman sell their fresh catches; one of my favorites is Garcia’s on the Miami River.  If I have the chance, I like to stop at the rapidly growing Design District or the Wynwood area, where the gallery scene is thriving. 

5:45 pm: Home

Home to a classic Miami sunset.

Christiana Lilly
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