December 12, 2019
Michael Tilson Thomas Celebrated at Kennedy Center Honors in Tribute Performance by Alumni of New World Symphony
Left: Michael Tilson Thomas accepts 2019 Kennedy Center Honors;
Right: New World Symphony alumni participants in Kennedy Center
tribute to Michael Tilson Thomas
Left: Michael Tilson Thomas accepts 2019 Kennedy Center Honors; Right: New World Symphony alumni participants in Kennedy Center tribute to Michael Tilson Thomas


Participating alumni span entire 32-year history of New World Symphony
and are led by former Conducting Fellow Teddy Abrams,
now Music Director of Louisville Orchestra

Fellow 2019 Honorees are R&B collective Earth, Wind & Fire, actress Sally Field, singer Linda Ronstadt, and children’s television program Sesame Street


MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA (December 12, 2019) — This past Sunday, newly awarded Kennedy Center Honoree Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) was celebrated in a special tribute presentation at the 42nd annual Kennedy Center Honors Gala. The tribute included a performance by more than 40 alumni of the New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy (NWS), which MTT co-founded 32 years ago as a training ground for the next generation of classical musicians. Conducted by NWS alumnus and Louisville Orchestra Music Director Teddy Abrams, the alumni musicians paid tribute to MTT’s wide-ranging artistry, performing a program that celebrated his acclaimed interpretations of modern masters, his advocacy for American music, and his own work as a composer. Joining the orchestra in performance were MTT’s longtime friends and collaborators Audra McDonald and Yuja Wang, as well as Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, who recently collaborated with MTT as part of Metallica and San Francisco Symphony’s S&M2 concert. Spoken tributes were also given by Mr. Ulrich and actress Debra Winger.

The gala will be televised on CBS on Sunday, December 15, at 8:00 p.m. ET. In Miami Beach—to celebrate the occasion with the local community—NWS and CBS4 Miami will host a free viewing party in SoundScape Park, where the telecast will be projected onto the 7,000-square-foot eastern façade of the New World Center as an NWS WALLCAST® event. Interludes throughout the viewing party will include brief on-site performances by NWS Fellows and interviews with CBS4 Entertainment Reporter Lisa Petrillo. For more information, visit

Among the alumni who gathered at the Kennedy Center to honor MTT were graduates from every era of the New World Symphony’s three-decade history, including musicians from the very first class of NWS Fellows in 1988. Today, alumni of the New World Symphony can be found in nearly every major American orchestra and opera house, and those who performed at the Kennedy Center Honors Gala include members of the New York Philharmonic; the Cleveland, Louisville, Minnesota, and Sarasota orchestras; the Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Fort Worth, Houston, Kansas City, Milwaukee, National, Oregon, Puerto Rico, San Antonio, San Francisco, St. Louis, Utah, and Winnipeg symphonies; and the Kennedy Center, Metropolitan, San Francisco, and Santa Fe opera orchestras. Participating alumni also include musicians who have gone on to faculty or administrative roles at Carnegie Hall, Louisville Orchestra, New World Symphony, and Northwestern University. The complete list of participants is included below.

For the original announcement of MTT’s 2019 Kennedy Center Honors, click here.


CBS This Morning profiles Michael Tilson Thomas at New World Symphony
and San Francisco Symphony (Wednesday, December 11, 2019)

From "The 42nd annual Kennedy Center Honors celebrated the towering musical influence of conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, who co-founded the New World Symphony. He is one of today's most prolific and respected conductors. Jan Crawford spoke with him about his more than 50-year career and his missions in life."


New World Symphony Alumni Orchestra,
2019 Kennedy Center Honors Gala


Raushan Akhmedyarova, ’01
San Francisco Symphony

Katherine Bormann, ’10
The Cleveland Orchestra

Alex Gonzalez, ’19

Jason Horowitz, ’02
Boston Symphony Orchestra

Daniel Jordan, ’98
Sarasota Orchestra

SunJoo Park, ’15
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

Philip Payton, ’02
Freelance, New York

Chelsea Sharpe, current
New World Symphony

Sarah Silver Manzke, ’14
San Antonio Symphony

Ko Sugiyama, ’12
The Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra

Isabel Trautwein, ’95
The Cleveland Orchestra

Shalini Vijayan, ’01
Lyris Quartet


Andrew François, ’18
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

Allyson Goodman, ’14
The Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra

Abhijit Sengupta, ’00
Carnegie Hall

Madeline Sharp, ’16
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra


Grace An, ’15
Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra

Thomas Carpenter, ’17
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Kari Docter, ’98
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra

Blake-Anthony Johnson, ’19
Louisville Orchestra (administrative)


Kristen Bruya, ’04
Minnesota Orchestra

Jeffrey Weisner, ’93
National Symphony Orchestra


Matthew Roitstein, ’13
Houston Symphony

Ebonee Thomas, ’08
Santa Fe Opera Orchestra


Eugene Izotov, ’94
San Francisco Symphony

Ryan Roberts, ’19
New York Philharmonic


Tad Calcara, ’99
Utah Symphony

Raymond Santos, ’08
Kansas City Symphony


Kathryn Brooks, ’13
Winnipeg Symphony

Francisco Joubert Bernard, ’19
Louisville Orchestra


Susanna Drake Gaunt, ’95
Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Alberto Suarez, ’06
Kansas City Symphony


Oscar Garcia-Montoya, ’06
Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra

Billy Hunter, ’03
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra


Donna Parkes, ’01
Louisville Orchestra

Miguel Rivera, ’89
Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra


Christopher Davis, ’09
Northwestern University


Sergio Carreno, ’11
Oregon Symphony

Robert Klieger, ’11
Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

Patricia Niemi, ’92
San Francisco Opera


Michael Linville, ’97
New World Symphony (faculty)


Teddy Abrams, ’11
Louisville Orchestra


Michael Tilson Thomas is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the New World Symphony, Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, and Conductor Laureate of the London Symphony Orchestra. In addition to conducting the world’s leading orchestras, MTT is also noted for his work as a composer and a producer of multimedia projects that are dedicated to music education and the reimagination of the concert experience. He has won eleven Grammys for his recordings, is the recipient of the National Medal of Arts, and is a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France. For more, visit

The New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy, prepares graduates of music programs for leadership roles in professional orchestras and ensembles. In the 30 years since its co-founding by Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas and Lin and Ted Arison, NWS has helped launch the careers of more than 1,100 alumni worldwide. A laboratory for the way music is taught, presented and experienced, the New World Symphony consists of 87 young musicians who are granted fellowships lasting up to three years. The fellowship program offers in-depth exposure to traditional and modern repertoire, professional development training and personalized experiences working with leading guest conductors, soloists and visiting faculty. Relationships with these artists are extended through NWS’s extensive distance learning via the internet. NWS Fellows take advantage of the innovative performance facilities and state-of-the art practice and ensemble rooms of the Frank Gehry-designed New World Center, the campus of the New World Symphony. For more, visit

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