President Obama awards Michael Tilson Thomas

Acclaimed conductor and composer Michael Tilson Thomas receives the Highest Award for Artistic Achievement in the USA from President Barack Obama.

The Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony was presented with the National Medal of Arts, the highest award for artistic achievement in the USA, by President Barack Obama on Thursday 25th February at a ceremony in  the White House

Tilson Thomas was be recognized for his contributions to American culture as an acclaimed as a conductor, composer and educator. Currently in his 15th season as music director of the San Francisco Symphony, he is also the Founder and Artistic Director of the New World Symphony, the premier orchestral academy for gifted young musicians.

He has worked with legendary composers of the 20th century, including Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein and he has conducted and recorded musical works ranging from Bach, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven to Gershwin, Ives and Reich. His recent recordings of Mahler’s Symphony No.8 and the Adagio from Symphony No.10 with the San Francisco Symphony collected three Grammy Awards earlier this month.

Tilson Thomas recently served as artistic director of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra (YTSO), a 96-member ensemble selected from 3,000 video auditions created by musicians from 30 countries and all walks of life and the first orchestra auditioned entirely online. He conducted the YTSO in April 2009 at a Carnegie Hall concert, which received global coverage.

Speaking about his award, Tilson Thomas said: “I am grateful to have the opportunity to share the deep and ongoing tradition of classical music with all Americans. I receive this award with gratitude to President Obama, the National Endowment for the Arts and to my many musical colleagues throughout the country whose devotion makes all this possible. I especially want to thank the San Francisco Symphony and the New World Symphony families for our special collaborations over these many years.”

The National Medal of Arts, established by the US Congress in 1984, is awarded by the President and managed by the National Endowment for the Arts. Award recipients are selected based on their contributions to the creation, growth, and support of the arts in the United States. The National Council on the Arts, the Arts Endowment’s presidentially-appointed and Senate-confirmed advisory body, reviews the nominations and provides recommendations to the President, who selects the recipients.