Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas recovers from surgery to remove a brain tumor

Michael Tilson Thomas conducting.
Michael Tilson Thomas conducting the London Symphony Orchestra at Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2015.
(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

Michael Tilson Thomas, the L.A.-born conductor who served as music director for the San Francisco Symphony for 25 years, is recovering after a successful surgery to remove a brain tumor, his representative said Friday.

Tilson Thomas had his surgery on an undisclosed date and will undergo therapy for several months. Previously scheduled public appearances by the conductor will be canceled through November, including performances with the National Symphony Orchestra for the Kennedy Center’s 50th anniversary and with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the New World Symphony in Miami Beach and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

“I deeply regret missing projects that I was greatly anticipating,” Tilson Thomas said in a statement. “I look forward to seeing everyone again in November.”


Tilson Thomas, affectionately known as MTT, maintained a deep connection with the West Coast, serving seven times as music director for the Ojai Music Festival, while serving as assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and later as music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. From 1981 to 1985, he served as the principal guest conductor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Two years later, he founded the New World Symphony orchestral academy.

A gifted pianist known for his exuberant compositions and his dynamic interpretations of Gustav Mahler, Tilson Thomas became San Francisco Symphony’s 11th music director in 1995. He stepped down from that position after the 2019-20 season and was named the organization’s music director laureate.

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Aug. 5, 2021