Jun 24, 2020
On Monday, June 22, Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) was named an Officer in the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters), the second of three grades recognized in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, awarded to distinguished artists who have made significant contributions to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world. Previously a Chevalier (Knight) in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France, this promotion to Officer recognizes MTT’s continued contributions to global culture and the vast impact he has had during his 25 years as Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony.
MTT has frequently visited and guest conducted the major French orchestras and has regularly appeared at the premier French concert halls both on tour with the San Francisco Symphony and with the London Symphony Orchestra, among others. He was scheduled to lead the San Francisco Symphony on tour in Lyon and Paris in April 2020; those performances were unfortunately canceled due to COVID-19. MTT’s most recent appearance in France was conducting Orchestre de Paris, which he will return to conduct again in June 2021.
The Award Ceremony took place Monday afternoon—generously hosted by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco at the Legion of Honor’s outdoor Court of Honor—and included a medal pinning by Consul General Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens and congratulatory remarks by San Francisco Mayor London Breed, San Francisco Symphony President Sakurako Fisher, former SF Symphony President and CEO Nancy Bechtle, Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Thomas Campbell, and President of the War Memorial Board of Trustees Thomas E. Horn. The ceremony also featured musical accompaniment by organist Jonathan Dimmock on the Legion of Honor’s magnificent Spreckels Organ, which could be heard outside in the Court of Honor through the opened-up frieze above the main entrance. Founder of San Francisco’s Legion of Honor, Alma Bretteville de Spreckels was inspired by the French Légion d’honneur, asking the French government for permission to copy the structure in San Francisco for the 1915 World Fair. Although the work was delayed by the First World War, ground was broken on San Francisco’s Legion of Honor in 1921.