Conductor, pianist and composer Michael Tilson Thomas has announced that he will step down as music director of the San Francisco Symphony in June 2020.

The 2019-2020 season will mark both Tilson Thomas’ 75th birthday and his 25th year leading the symphony in what is regarded as one of the most productive musical partnerships in the orchestral world.

“Looking back over these decades. I am filled with gratitude for the extraordinary artistic partnership I have had with the members of the orchestra and for the warm and generous style of music-making we have shared with all of our audiences,” Tilson Thomas said in a press release. “Having been a music director of an orchestra for most of my adult life and as I approach my 75th birthday, I feel this is an appropriate moment to set aside some of my administrative responsibilities and begin a new period of creative possibilities.”

Following the 2019-2020 season, Tilson Thomas will assume the title of music director laureate of the San Francisco Symphony and will continue to conduct the orchestra for a minimum of four weeks each season in addition to other projects.

Tilson Thomas’ legacy with the San Francisco Symphony began in 1974 with his debut at age 29 conducting Mahler’s 9th Symphony. He was named the orchestra’s 11th music director in September 1995.

To celebrate the remaining two seasons of his tenure, the orchestra will feature signature recording projects, festivals, commissions of new works, staged productions, a two-week tour of the U.S. in 2018-2019 and a three-week European tour in 2019-2020.

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or