American Mavericks

Adieu, Mavericks

With the American Mavericks Festival and Tour now complete, Davies Symphony Hall is quiet without percussion polyrhythms coming up through the floors, Paul Jacobs on the Ruffatti organ making us wonder if we just had a minor earthquake, and running into an array of props, sets, and weirdo instruments backstage.  Not to say we’re not […]

Mavericks comes to a close in NY

  A four concert run of maverick music at Carnegie Hall comes to a close tonight with our second concert at Zankel Hall.  Enthusiastic audiences have greeted the musicians and composers throughout, with backstage looking like a who’s who of contemporary music.  After any given concert you’re likely to see John Adams talking with Mason Bates […]

SF Symphony on Great Performances

Over the past three weeks, audiences in San Francisco, Chicago, Ann Arbor, and New York have had a chance to see Michael Tilson Thomas lead performances by the San Francisco Symphony.  Tomorrow night, it’s your turn! At 9 pm, PBS’s Great Performances will broadcast the opening performance of our Centennial season–a chance for all of […]

MTT on NPR’s Fresh Air

As it turns out, MTT is not the first in his family to promote and create innovative, artistic, and distinctly American performances–his grandparents, Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky, were among the founders and creators of American Yiddish Theater in New York and Chicago at the turn of the century. Today with host Terry Gross on NPR’s […]

American Mavericks opens at Carnegie Hall

Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony’s American Mavericks Festival opened at Carnegie Hall tonight, in the first of four concerts, with a rare, fully-staged performance of John Cage’s Song Books, with soloists Joan La Barbara, Meredith Monk, and Jessye Norman. Another highlight of the evening: the New York premiere of John Adams’ new […]

WATCH: American Mavericks Conversation with MTT, John Adams, Meredith Monk & Q2 Music from NYC’s Greene Space

Q2 Music celebrated America’s great iconoclastic composers when San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas and the SFS brought the American Mavericks tour to New York. In anticipation of their Carnegie Hall concerts March 27-30, composers John Adams and Meredith Monk, the St. Lawrence String Quartet, and pianist Jeremy Denk joined MTT for an […]

LIVE webcast Monday, 3/26 with MTT, Meredith Monk, John Adams from WQXR’s Greene Space

On Monday, March 26 at 4 pm PDT/7pm EDT, Michael Tilson Thomas, John Adams, Meredith Monk, the St. Lawrence String Quartet, and Jeremy Denk visit hosts David Garland of WQXR and Nadia Sirota of Q2 for a live studio event and webcast at New York’s  Greene Space  to launch the American Mavericks Festival in New York. […]

Backstage: The sets for John Cage’s Song Books

Before Michael Tilson Thomas and the orchestra, Joan La Barbara, Meredith Monk, and Jessye Norman set foot on stage, before the ushers arrive and the box office starts cooking, and long before concertgoers file in to tonight’s San Francisco Symphony concert for John Cage’s Song Books, the unsung heroes of the stage crew are unloading […]

Inside Jacob’s Room by Morton Subotnick

It’s hard to imagine what music today would sound like without electronic music.  The proliferation of the use of electronics has given us the live looping via foot pedal of cellist Zoë Keating, Mason Bates’ addition of ‘laptop’ to the roster of orchestral instruments, and for better or for worse, Autotune.  Over the past forty […]

American Mavericks in Chicago

First stop on the SF Symphony’s American Mavericks tour: Chicago. It’s the first visit here by the orchestra in 10 years, and the city has put on its spring best: the day we arrived, it was one degree shy of Chicago’s record high temperature for March – 87 degrees. Millenium Park is in full bloom, […]

VIDEO: John Adams on Absolute Jest

Any composer has to reckon with the work of Ludwig van Beethoven. As John Adams put it: “Another rite of passage that one must endure, if you’re to be a ‘classical’ composer, is to share the bed with one of the large guys.” Adams’ new work, Absolute Jest, is inspired by Beethoven’s more intimate works. […]

What the BBb is THAT?

As the Orchestra performs its last weekend of American Mavericks Festival concerts here in San Francisco and prepares to go on tour to Ann Arbor, Chicago, and New York, we’ve been seeing a lot of odd and unusual things lying around backstage.  Yesterday morning, I came upon this case, which at about five feet long, […]

WATCH: Live stream 3/17 1:30 pm PDT: “Talking About Creativity” from American Orchestra Forum

Join us Saturday, March 17 at 1:30pm PDT for a live webcast of the San Francisco Symphony’s “Talking About Creativity” event, part of our American Orchestra Forum. Hear San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas, SF Symphony Executive Director Brent Assink, composers John Adams and Mason Bates, Margo Drakos of, Ed Sanders of […]

VIDEO: Meredith Monk on Realm Variations

This weekend at the SF Symphony means the world premiere of not one, not two, but THREE new works by maverick composers.  There are the first performances of Mason Bates’ Mass Transmission and John Adams’ Absolute Jest, and on Sunday at 2 pm Meredith Monk, her vocal ensemble, and members of the San Francisco Symphony […]

DJ Masonic at Davies After Hours

TGIF!!! Tonight following the American Mavericks Festival performance of Mason Bates’ brand new work Mass Transmission led by Donato Cabrera with organist Paul Jacobs, Mason Bates on electronica, and the grammy-winning San Francisco Symphony Chorus, Bates will reappear in the nightclub-like atmosphere of Davies After Hours in the second tier lobby as his alter-ego, DJ […]

Absolute Jest

It’s not every day that you get to hear a sneak preview of a new piece of music by a great living American composer—unless you work at the SF Symphony during American Mavericks! Today, the St. Lawrence String Quartet is in the house, rehearsing the piece the Symphony commissioned from John Adams for the Mavericks […]

The Newest Maverick

The newest maverick on this year’s American Mavericks festival is Mason Bates.  An Oakland resident, Mason has created his own voice by writing music that is not only fun to play but fun to listen to by incorporating electronic elements into his orchestra textures.  He’s this year’s Project San Francisco resident composer here at the […]

American Mavericks Festival concerts “a triumph” and “a whirlwind of delight”

Some great reviews are coming in of the first concerts in the American Mavericks Festival: “After weeks of build-up, the American Mavericks Festival opened Thursday night at Davies Symphony Hall. It delivered what Michael Tilson Thomas has been promising: to connect the dots through a century’s worth of music that somehow defines an American sound […]

VIDEO: Rehearsal timelapse of John Cage’s Song Books

Here’s a neat 20-second timelapse video of the stage set-up and dress rehearsal for John Cage’s Song Books, with Michael Tilson Thomas, Joan La Barbara, Meredith Monk, and Jessye Norman and the San Francisco Symphony. You can’t hear the blender whir, but you can get some idea of what will unfold when the musicians perform […]

Happy Birthday Henry Cowell!

Processing Cage

Tomorrow night and on Wednesday, March 14, MTT, Joan La Barbara, Meredith Monk, and Jessye Norman will stage John Cage’s Song Books.  They will be joined by several SF Symphony musicians, a few miniature houses, some fruit, a blender, a typewriter, card games, and electronic musician Jesse Stiles on stage. (There were so many unusual […]

Mavericks Family Tree

The mavericks play Six Degrees of Charles Ives:

Opening Night

It’s opening night of the American Mavericks Festival, Centennial Edition  !  On the program tonight:  Copland’s Orchestral Variations, Lou Harrison’s Concerto for Organ and Percussion Orchestra and Henry Brant’s arrangement of Charles Ives’ A Concord Symphony.     It’s an eclectic audience tonight in Davies Symphony Hall.  Fitting for the group of composers on tonight’s […]

Ring My Bells

It’s the American Mavericks Festival’s Opening Day! On the first concert program (tonight and tomorrow night in SF), Paul Jacobs will perform Lou Harrison’s Concerto for Organ with Percussion Orchestra with members of the SFS Percussion Section.  You can preview the music here, or watch a video from Paul Jacobs and MTT about how fun […]

Charles Ives: the man, the mystery

Charles Ives is the original American Maverick. After graduating from Yale with a D+ grade point average and taking a job with an insurance firm in New York, Ives plotted to open his own firm—at which he proved adept. His firm, Ives & Myrick, was very successful, and Ives even devised life insurance strategies that […]

American Mavericks: GO!!

The first rehearsals are underway! Michael Tilson Thomas and the Orchestra are here, and the hall is full of interesting sounds, instruments, and stage props. Pianist Jeremy Denk just finished his first rehearsal with the musicians of Henry Cowell’s Piano Concerto, and next up is Ives’ A Concord Symphony. Tomorrow is opening night, and we’re […]