THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
Friday, August 23, 1985
WE HAVE ONE WORD
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M U SIC
M. Tilson Thomas Mixes
Judaism and Gershwin
BY MICHAEL ELKIN
Special To The Jewish News
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BRANCH OUT JEWISHLY
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Michael Tilson Thomas: A musical prodigy with strong Yiddish
Dr. Jacqueline Zeff
Dr. Sidney Bolkosky
For a complete brochure
Please call 352-7117
Dr. Anita Norich
Courses Begin September 3
Midragla College of Jewish Studies
Sigmund and Sophie Rohlik Bldg.
21550 West Twelve Mile Road
Southfield, Mich. 48076
Conductor Michael - Tilson Symphony at the age 24 in
Thomas has been called one of 1969; music director of the Buf-
American music's most versatile falo Philharmonic from 1971 to
pioneers. In charting his path, 1979; current principal guest
conductor Michael Tilson conductor with the Los Angeles
Thomas can tip his hat to Philharmonic; 12 Grammy
grandparents rooted in another nominations; and respected in-
language and culture — Yid- terpreter of such American com-
posers as Ives, Ruggles, Reich
"Their dedication to the arts and Gershwin.
Music has been a friendly
set a very profound example for
me," says Tilson Thomas. "I at resident in the 40-year-old con-
one time thought of going into ductor's life since he started
the sciences, but the example of playing at the age of five.
who they were and the kind-of Music, Tilson Thomas says, has
provided him with a passport
people they were changed that."
Of course, his grandparents, "which takes me into an
Boris and Bessie Thomashevsky, enchanting and beautiful
were prominent pathfinders in world."
Part of that world glimmers
their own right. Boris is ac-
knowledged as the "father of the with Gershwin. "I am very de-
Yiddish theater" in America; his voted to Gershwin," says Tilson
wife, Bessie, was a prominent Thomas. "George has a 'special
facination that draws me in."
Gershwin was no stranger to
grandfather; he died before I the conductor's house — he even
was born," says Tilson Thomas, taught Michael's father, a
whose father shortened the fam- screenwriter and movie producer
ily surname so he could get jobs and director, how to play piano.
based on his own talents. "But I "How extraordinary and rich is
was 18 when my grandmother Gershwin's music," says Tilson
died. Some say she was the Thomas.' "It is always pro-
greater actor. She told me a lot foundly expressive."
of stories about Yiddish theater
Calling the composer "an un-
and how it got started. She 'Was classified genius," Tilson
such a craftsman." •
Thomas adds, "He is maybe the
Grandson Michael has done most famous of American com-
very well on his own: music di- posers, but he's never been
rector of the Young Musicians taken as seriously as he should
Foundation Debut Orchestra at be taken."
the age of 19; Koussevitzky
Tilson Thomas is conducting a
Prize winner in 1968 as a con- personal campaign in an effort
Titv &wood; to change all that. His most re-
assistant condueor of Boston cent idbiinl'IMAYunpublished