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Famed conductor, Miami New World Symphony director recovering from emergency brain surgery

Michael Tilson Thomas, co-founder and artistic director of Miami's New World Symphony, is recovering from a brain tumor.
Michael Tilson Thomas, co-founder and artistic director of Miami's New World Symphony, is recovering from a brain tumor. (New World Symphony)

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – The co-founder and artistic director of Miami’s New World Symphony and longtime former music director of the San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas, has canceled October appearances with the New World Symphony, along with other scheduled engagements after undergoing surgery for a brain tumor.

According to an email sent by Howard Herring, NWS’s president and chief executive officer, Tilson Thomas was diagnosed with a brain tumor that required immediate surgery.

“The operation at the UCSF Medical Center was successful,” Herring said in the email. “He is now embarking on a course of therapy for the next several months which necessitates curtailing his public appearances through the end of Octo‌ber.”

NWS shared the news Friday, however, the surgery took place at the end of July at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center.

“He is now embarking on a course of therapy for the next several months which necessitates curtailing his public appearances through the end of Octo‌ber. MTT is being cared for by the excellent team at UCSF who are continuing to explore all possible options for treatment,” Herring wrote.

Herring said there would be more updates about the orchestra’s plans for its October concerts in light of Tilson Thomas’ health.

Tilson Thomas, who is 76 years old, shared a statement in the email that said he was “looking forward to seeing everyone again in November.” He also spoke to fans through social media on Friday.

In 1987, Tilson Thomas co-founded and became the artistic director of the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, a postgraduate orchestral academy that is dedicated to preparing musicians of diverse backgrounds for leadership roles in classical music.

It has been called a laboratory for the way music is taught, presented and experienced. The New World Symphony consists of young musicians who are granted fellowships lasting up to three years. The fellowships are competitive with more than 1,500 recent music school and conservatory graduates competing for only about 35 available fellowships each year.

The New World Center, which houses the program, opened in 2011 in downtown Miami Beach’s 17th Street Corridor. Designed by renowned architect Gehry, Tilson Thomas worked in close collaboration with Gehry.

The conductor also canceled appearances with the National Symphony Orchestra for the Kennedy Center’s 50th Anniversary, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Tilson Thomas lives with his husband and manager, Joshua Robison, in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood.

Herring said anyone who would like to offer “messages of support” to Tilson Thomas can send an email to artistic.director@nws.edu.


About the Author:

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local 10.com.