If It Sounds Good, It Is Good! | April 2017


One of my favorite “perks” of being Conductor of the Cincinnati Pops is the multitude of opportunities I have throughout the year to conduct local ensembles. The number and quality of amateur and school bands and orchestras in our region is pretty astounding, and I’m often asked to pop in for a rehearsal and offer pointers and a fresh perspective on repertoire and style. It’s no secret that I am one of the Queen City’s proudest “band geeks,” so I feel right at home in just about any rehearsal room and auditorium around town. This goes for China too—you may have heard about the incredible time we had working with young musicians on the other side of the planet during the Pops Asia Tour.

Back home again this month, we continue a multiyear collaboration with the high school instrumental programs of Indian Hill, Mariemont and Madeira. Several of my Pops colleagues and I have been working with each of the schools’ orchestras and bands for the past several months, including intensive sectional rehearsals and coachings. All of this work culminates on April 11, when I conduct the combined forces of two orchestras and three bands at Indian Hill High School, performing works created and inspired in the great Ohio Valley. From spirituals to bluegrass, and from Stephen Foster to James Brown, Cincinnati’s musical history IS American musical history—and
we tell this story in sound throughout the concert. Although these schools may knock heads against each other in basketball and football throughout the year, for this event nearly 250 young musicians gather to work in a collaborative environment where harmony and beauty are the ideal. 

I also look forward to working with MYCincinnati each year. This ensemble of school-aged string players is based on the “El Sistema” music program developed in Venezuela, which focuses on fostering positive social change through the transformative power of music making. Gustavo Dudamel, the effervescent conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic is a product of El Sistema, which has also touched the lives of thousands upon thousands of kids worldwide. Every time I visit MYCincinnati, I leave more impressed than the time before. Not only are these students learning valuable skills like self-discipline, teamwork and creative problem solving, they are blossoming into talented musicians with a cohesive and vibrant sound that is a joy to behold. Folks ask me all the time how a moderate-sized metropolitan area like ours can support such an amazing world-class orchestra like the Pops—it’s because the incredible music programs in our region such as MYCincinnati and our public schools are available to EVERYONE, and continue to nurture one generation of music lovers after the next. This is why I love music, and why I love Cincinnati.

Another source of inspiration this month is the magical world of Disney! Every generation has its favorites. I was raised on the classic animations from the 50s and 60s; our kids grew up on the Disney musicals from the 90s, and now I’m thrilled to discover a whole new world of delight in the latest additions to the Disney songbook in our final Pops series of the season “Disney in Concert: Tale as Old as Time.” There will be plenty of music and images from favorite classics, plus the newest music from Frozen, The Princess and the Frog and Tangled. This is going to be FUN!