New World Symphony


The New World Symphony is dedicated to the artistic, personal and professional development of outstanding instrumentalists. The NWS fellowship program provides top graduates of music programs the opportunity to enhance their musical education with the finest professional training. A laboratory for musical education and expression, the New World Symphony, through a wide range of performance and instructional activities, seeks to develop in participants the full complement of skills and qualifications required of twenty-first century first class musicians. Under the direction of Artistic Director Laureate Michael Tilson Thomas, the program offers in-depth exposure to traditional and modern repertoire, with the active involvement of leading guest conductors, soloists and coaches. The relationships with these artists are extended through NWS' pioneering experimentation with distance learning via Internet2.


Established in 1987 under the artistic direction of Michael Tilson Thomas, this unique educational environment prepares gifted graduates of distinguished music programs for leadership positions in orchestras and ensembles around the world.

Since its inaugural concert on February 4, 1988, the New World Symphony has been heard in such prestigious venues as New York's Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall, London's Barbican Centre, Paris's Bastille Opera and Argentina's Teatro Colon.

NWS has been televised on PBS, London Weekend Television and Univision. New World Symphony tours have included performances in Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, France, Great Britain, Israel, Japan, Monaco, and throughout the United States. The New World Symphony has worked with such internationally recognized conductors as Leonard Bernstein, Sir Georg Solti, Marek Janowski, David Robertson, Christoph Eschenbach and Stanislaw Skrowaczewski; violinists Anne-Sophie Mutter, Midori, Gil Shaham and Sarah Chang; and such other artists as Yo-Yo Ma, Renee Fleming, John Adams, Emanuel Ax, Yuri Bashmet, Barbara Hendricks and Gloria Estefan.

In 1991, Mr. Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony were presented in a series of benefit concerts for UNICEF in the U.S. featuring Audrey Hepburn as narrator of From the Diary of Anne Frank, composed by Mr. Tilson Thomas and commissioned by UNICEF. In April 1995, Michael Tilson Thomas and the musicians performed with Debra Winger for the season finale concerts in Miami, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and New York's Avery Fisher Hall.

The New World Symphony has made seven recordings to date. In January 1997, BMG Classics released NWS' first recording on the RCA Red Seal label with Mr. Tilson Thomas leading the musicians in works by Heitor Villa-Lobos. A second disc for RCA Red Seal entitled New World Jazz was released in September 1998, and features Mr. Tilson Thomas and the orchestra in vibrant interpretations of jazz-inspired works by 20th-century composers. On Argo/Decca, the Grammy-nominated Tangazo, featuring Latin-American classics with Michael Tilson Thomas, was released in March 1993; Four Parables, with John Nelson conducting music of the American composer Paul Schoenfield, was released in June 1994. Defining Dahl: The Music of Ingolf Dahl, conducted by Mr. Tilson Thomas, was released in 1995, also on the Argo label. Other releases on Argo/Decca include Coptic Light, music of Morton Feldman led by Mr. Tilson Thomas, and Amy Beach's piano concerto with soloist Alan Feinberg and conductor John Nelson.

The New World Symphony has launched the careers of more than 750 young musicians now making a difference in the profession worldwide. In North America, they are members of such ensembles as the Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony in Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Symphony. Their placement in foreign orchestras includes symphonies and chamber orchestras in Germany, China, Hong Kong, France and Spain. In addition, many New World Symphony musicians have chosen career paths in chamber music, music education and arts management.


Michael Tilson Thomas, Artistic Director Laureate

Michael Tilson Thomas is a conductor, composer, educator and pianist. Founder and Artistic Director Laureate of the New World Symphony, America’s Orchestra Academy; Music Director Laureate of the San Francisco Symphony; and Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. In addition to these posts, he maintains an active presence guest conducting with the major orchestras of Europe and the United States.

Mr. Tilson Thomas studied piano with John Crown and conducting and composition with Ingolf Dahl at the University of Southern California. At age nineteen he was named Music Director of the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra. He worked 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. That year he also made his New York debut with the Boston Symphony and gained international recognition after replacing Music Director William Steinberg in mid-concert. He was later appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra where he remained until 1974. He was Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic from 1971 to 1979 and a Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1981 to 1985. He was Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra from 1987 to 1995.

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 completed recording the complete orchestral works of Gustav Mahler with the San Francisco Symphony.

Mr. Tilson Thomas’ extensive television work includes a series with the London Symphony Orchestra for BBC Television, the television broadcasts of the New York Philharmonic Young People’s Concerts from 1971 to 1977 and numerous productions on PBS Great Performances. In 2004 Mr. Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony embarked on a multi-tiered media project – Keeping Score – which includes television, web sites, radio programs and programs in the schools, all designed to make classical music more accessible to a new audience.

Among his many honors and awards Mr. Tilson Thomas is a Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France, was named Musical America’s Musician of the Year and Conductor of the Year, Gramophone Magazine’s Artist of the Year and has been profiled on CBS’s 60 Minutes and ABC’s Nightline. He has won ten Grammy Awards for his recordings. In 2008 he received the Peabody Award for his radio series for SFS Media, The MTT Files. In 2010 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts at a ceremony in the White House.