The Superconductor: SF Symphony's Michael Tilson Thomas
Mother Jones / Clara Jeffery

Forget childhood piano recitals. Could there be a more terrifying prospect than discussing classical music with one of our greatest all-time conductors, Michael Tilson Thomas? I consoled myself with the fact that as music director of the San Francisco Symphony, MTT has picked up Leonard Bernstein's baton and made it his mission to make classical music accessible to the masses. In both PBS's Keeping Score and public radio's The MTT Files (a must-listen: his show on James Brown), he breaks down compositions and musical history. The SF Symphony has kid-friendly programs. He runs the New World Symphony, an academy for young prodigies. He even harnessed YouTube to cast an orchestra that came together for three days of practice before playing Carnegie Hall. In 2005 he produced an homage to his grandparents, Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky, Yiddish theater stars so famous that 30,000 people attended his grandfather's funeral. And President Obama recently awarded him the National Medal of Arts for "for his commitment to engaging new artists and audiences in the exciting world of con... >>>

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