Thomas Wilkins, The Conductor and His Impact

Christina Knight | February 3, 2022

When the pandemic upturned people’s lives and ended live performances, conductor Thomas Wilkins said, “Here we are in the midst of this mess, and music still flourishes, and beauty gets to have the last word.” The biographical film Beyond The Baton: A Conductor’s Journey (Tuesday, February 22, 9:30 p.m.) examines Thomas Wilkins’ experience as a Black conductor and his impact on the musical world.

A black man in black tux and white bow tie conductors outfit.

Thomas Wilkins, Omaha (Nebraska) Symphony Music Director Laureate. Courtesy Omaha Symphony.

When he was just eight years old, Thomas Wilkins heard an orchestra for the first time and told his teacher, “That’s what I want to do when I grow up!”

Wilkins would grow up to become the longest serving conductor and music director laureate of the Omaha Symphony as well as the first African American in the history of the Boston Symphony Orchestra to hold a conducting position.

Join us for the biography of renowned conductor Thomas Wilkins in Beyond The Baton: A Conductor’s Journey, streaming now and airing Tuesday, February 22. Michele Martin of Amanpour and Company and NPR’s All Things Considered, narrates. See all air dates and stream now on NJ PBS or the PBS Video app.

A conductor in black suit presses his hands together against his chest as he makes low bow to symphony. Behind him musicians in tuxes stand.

Omaha Symphony Music Director Laureate Thomas Wilkins conducting the symphony at the Holland Performing Arts Center in 2019. Courtesy: Omaha Symphony