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    Birthday Wishes for Michael Tilson Thomas

    Calif. State Senator Mark Leno:

    1994 was an important year for our beloved city, as it was then that the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas made it official. Twenty years later, this committed relationship has never been stronger or more productive. As a lifelong friend, it was a joyful time for me to welcome Michael and his now husband, Joshua Robison, to my recently claimed new hometown.


    Michael and I met a few years before my 1977 San Francisco arrival as I was entering rabbinical studies in New York City. It was April of 1974 when I received a call from a musical friend to let me know that Michael would be conducting the New York Philharmonic’s Young Peoples Concerts for a week. He asked if I knew anyone who could gofer for him while he was in town. As I had been eager to meet him, I immediately accepted the offer, and I am so glad I did.

    Even with the passing of 40 years, I am continually impressed and inspired by Michael’s commitment to his craft, to his work ethic and to his love affair with music and life. His thrill in sharing this dedication with his San Francisco audience and fans worldwide is equal only to our appreciation of being the fortunate beneficiaries of his life of study, experimentation and performance.

    The Biblically proscribed life of three score ten years passes far too quickly. Let me wish my dear friend, as we say in the Jewish tradition, “Od me’a essrim—should you live to 120, as did Moses.”

    San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee:

    As the Maestro for the world class San Francisco Symphony for the last 20 years, we celebrate Michael Tilson Thomas and his 70th Birthday. His vision and leadership continue to transform our City’s diverse arts and culture, and help to showcase San Francisco’s innovation around the world.

    Timothy Seelig, Artistic Director and Conductor of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus:


    Moving to San Francisco only four years ago was an incredible experience on so many levels. One of the most exciting was being in a city with one of the true musical geniuses of our time, Michael Tilson Thomas. He is one of the world’s greatest musicians and human beings. Just to make music in the same city, in his shadow, makes all of us strive to be better at what we do. His creativity and courage inspire all of us who make music—whether as a vocation or avocation. And, more than that, the fact that he continues to conquer the music world as an openly gay man makes all of us extremely proud.

    I was not sure if or when our paths would cross, so you can imagine my surprise when our first meeting happened one Sunday morning while waiting with the SFGMC contingent for the Pride Parade to begin. I was totally star struck. I am quite certain whatever I said made no sense whatsoever. He was, of course, warm and gracious. We have had the opportunity to run into each other on several occasions. With his mind-boggling schedule, we are seldom in the same place at the same time, but he actually walked across the street from Davies to catch our dress rehearsal of I Am Harvey Milk last summer. We have had initial conversations about some kind of collaboration in the future, which is beyond exciting for us.

    Happy Birthday, Maestro. You inspire me and all of us. The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus salutes you on this special day.

    Words of Wisdom from MTT

    “The big difference between human happiness and sadness? Thirty-seven freakin’ vibrations.”

     “If you’re curious, if you have a capacity for wonder, if you’re alive, you know all that you need to know [about music].”

     “I can’t do pieces I only admire technically. I have to feel some direct contact with them.”

    “That’s why I take every performance so seriously, why it matters to me so much. I never know who might be there, who might be absorbing it, and what will happen to it in their life.”

    “Classical music is an unbroken, living tradition that goes back over 1,000 years, and every one of those years has had something unique and powerful to say to us about what it’s like to be alive.”

     “Being a conductor is kind of a hybrid profession because most fundamentally, it is being someone who is a coach, a trainer, an editor, a director.”

     “Even the most ambitious masterpiece can have as its central mission to bring you back to a fragile and personal moment.”