Michael Tilson Thomas, a renowned conductor and composer, has revealed in a public statement that he has been given a diagnosis of glioblastoma multiforme, a kind of brain cancer that is particularly aggressive. Tilson Thomas will step down as music director of the San Francisco Symphony in June 2020, after having served as its music director for the past 25 years.

The classical music community first became aware of Tilson Thomas’s sickness last year, when he underwent surgery to remove a tumour. Nevertheless, he did not reveal his formal diagnosis until he sent an open letter to his friends and followers on Wednesday.

After performing 20 concerts over the course of the past few months with the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the San Francisco Symphony, he wrote that “it takes strength to meet the demands of the music and to collaborate on the highest level with the remarkable musicians who so generously welcomed me.” “I have come to the realisation that it is time for me to start thinking about the amount of work and obligations that I will be able to maintain in the years to come.”

“Currently the cancer is in check,” Tilson Thomas wrote.

According to what Tilson Thomas wrote, the cancer is under control at the moment. “On the other hand, the future is clouded by the fact that glioblastoma is a covert foe. The occurrence of it again and again is, sadly, more the norm than it is the exception.”

Tilson Thomas is one of the co-founders of the New World Symphony, which is situated in Miami and serves as a training orchestra for aspiring professional musicians. Thomas has also served as the orchestra’s artistic director for a significant portion of its history. In the letter, he mentioned that he had already had surgery, radiation treatment, and chemotherapy. He wrote, “I have been the Artistic Director of the New World Symphony for the past 34 years, and it is time for me to stand aside.”

michael tilson thomas illness

Tilson Thomas’s spokeswoman, Constance Shuman, shared with NPR that the conductor intends to continue guiding the New World Symphony from behind the podium as much as possible but that he would delegate administrative responsibilities to others. Tilson Thomas already holds the position of Artistic Director Laureate with the San Francisco Symphony and the London Symphony Orchestra, and he will also take on the role of Artistic Director Laureate with this institution.

Tilson Thomas stated in his letter, “I hope to remain around for a time.” “For me, it’s all about coming up with new ideas and working with other people to produce excellent music… I shall keep composing, writing, and ruminating on both your thoughts and mine as I move forward. I intend to devote more time to wondering, wandering, and cooking, as well as to spending time with the people and animals I care about. Life is a precious commodity.”

Tilson Thomas expressed his gratitude to his fellow employees and to his spouse, Joshua Robison, for their support in the letter that he wrote.

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