New World Symphony appoints acclaimed French conductor as new artistic director

Miami’s New World Symphony has found its second artistic director.

On Friday, the symphony announced that Stéphane Denève, an internationally lauded conductor and music director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, will assume the role this season. Denève succeeds the symphony’s founding artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas, who announced earlier this year that he would step down from the role due to health concerns.

Tilson Thomas, who is considered to be one of the world’s greatest living conductors, co-founded New World Symphony 35 years ago. The symphony was designed to be an ensemble and intensive three-year fellowship program for music school graduates to further their education and hone their skills.

“Stéphane Denève is one of the great conductors of our time, leading major orchestras of the U.S. and Europe. He has shown a talent for developing the artistic stature of his ensembles and broadening the symphonic repertoire,” said NWS chairman William Osbourne in a statement. “He is deeply committed to passing the traditions of classical music to the next generation.”

Denève brings an impressive resume of experience to the position. Originally from France, he has performed and lead programming at prestigious institutions around the world.

He was previously the principal guest conductor The Philadelphia Orchestra, chief conductor of the Brussels Philharmonic, chief conductor of Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra and music director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Denève regularly conducts the New York Philharmonic, The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, New World Symphony and Toronto Symphony.

Denève’s peers hold him in high regard as an educator, as well. He is a graduate and prize-winner of the Paris Conservatoire and has worked with young musicians at New World Symphony, Tanglewood Music Center, the Colburn School, the European Union Youth Orchestra, and the Music Academy of the West.

“The New World Symphony, for over 35 years, has been at the forefront of musical education and has built a groundbreaking tradition of re-imagining the future of our artform, pushing boundaries with passion, curiosity and open-mindedness,” Denève said in a statement. “It is with great joy and a humbling sense of purpose that I am joining today the family of the New World Symphony, making it now my mission to continue the inspired dream of its founder and guiding soul, Michael Tilson Thomas.”

Denève will work alongside Tilson Thomas, who took on the less strenuous role of artistic director laureate in June.

New World Symphony co-founder Michael Tilson Thomas accepts the 2019 Kennedy Center Honors at a State Department dinner in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 8, 2019.
New World Symphony co-founder Michael Tilson Thomas accepts the 2019 Kennedy Center Honors at a State Department dinner in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 8, 2019.

In March, Tilson Thomas announced that he would step down as artistic director to focus on his health. He was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive form of brain cancer, and has been receiving treatment.

In a statement, Tilson Thomas welcomed his friend and colleague Denève to the symphony, lauding him as a “devoted, enthusiastic, and internationally recognized musician.”

“When Ted and Lin Arison and I started the New World Symphony 35 years ago, we hoped that we were creating an institution that would continue to grow, evolve and serve the musical community and the public. It was our profoundest belief that our success would be measured by how much attention we could devote to each Fellow who came through the program,” Tilson Thomas said. “With over 1,200 alumni sharing their art and a strong and vital future secured for the institution, I feel we have realized our dream. How reassuring to know that Stéphane Denève will carry that dream forward.”

This story was produced with financial support from The Pérez Family Foundation, in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners, as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The Miami Herald maintains full editorial control of this work.