For the sixth time in a row, I've had the opportunity to interview Steven Reineke, The New York Pops Musical Director/Conductor. His enthusiasm, love, and passion for The New York Pops is a joy to be around. Steven sure had a lot of excitement in talking about The New York Pops' inaugural summer series at Forest Hills Stadium featuring two-time Tony Award winner Sutton Foster on Thursday, August 6 and American band Pink Martini on Friday, August 7 at 7:30pm! Click here for tickets to Sutton Foster and click here for tickets to Pink Martini!
The great thing about interviewing Steven is that I learn something new about him every time. Needless to say, when The New York Pops announced their summer series at the Forest Hills Stadium, I knew I had to get in touch with New York Pops press rep Dan Dutcher to see if I could yet again speak with Steven and much to my delight, Dan and his team set everything up! My favorite part of this particular interview was learning why The New York Pops' PopsEd Programs are so near and dear to Steven's heart! I got all choked hearing him speak his truth so eloquently!
1. What made you want to expand The New York Pops concerts from Carnegie Hall to the Forest Hills Stadium? Ever since I was named Music Director of The New York Pops in 2008 I had asked to the upper management, "What do we do in the summer? Is there a summer series? If so, where do we play?" There really hasn't been too many viable options for us in New York City. I have had this dream for six years and luckily for us the Forest Hills Stadium has been refurbished and reopened as a music venue and it just so happens one of the powers behind that happening is a New York Pops board member who came to me and said, "Steven, we might have a home for The New York Pops for the summer." You can imagine the thrill I felt, jumping up and down, saying, "Oh my gosh, we have to make this happen." So, here we are, making this happen. I'm so excited about it. It's a great venue, perfect for the orchestra to perform in.
2. Your first two guests for the summer season kick-off are quite the names. Sutton Foster on August 6 and Pink Martini on August 7. How did you decide that you wanted them to kick off the new summer series? We looked at several guest artists that we wanted to bring in and Sutton Foster and Pink Martini were both high on our list, so it was a no brainer to ask them. The show we just did with Sutton Foster this past March at Carnegie Hall was a huge success and since then she has been doing that show with other orchestras around the country (including some of the other orchestras I conduct) and it always sells out. The audience always loves the show. But for the summer series, we changed the show a little bit. It will be similar to what we did at Carnegie Hall, but there will be some new surprises...some songs added in, others taken out, and a different guest star. We are excited to announce that Colin Donnell will be joining Sutton Foster on stage as well as welcoming back Sutton's best friend and colleague Megan McGinnis. I'm thrilled to be working with Colin Donnell for the first time.
And then Pink Martini, we have not had a chance to do the Pink Martini show in New York with the New York Pops. We did have them one time as part of our Christmas Show, but that show is quite different from a typical Pink Martini orchestral concert. I'm thrilled to be able to bring them in for our first summer series. It's going to be a lot of fun. We have a very special treat that night for the audience...we will have both leading ladies from Pink Martini with us, Storm Large and Pink Martini's original lead singer China Forbes. It's such rarity to get both singers at one time, it's usually one or the other.
3. What plans do you have for future summer series? We want this to be an ongoing series. We want it to be a three concert series, but if there's room for a fourth or fifth concert, I would be a very happy man. The Forest Hills Stadium has had some wonderful big act offerings since reopening...Santana, The Who, Van Morrison, Mumford and Sons, and booked with mega acts all the time. It's really nice to be able to put an orchestra in that venue and I know that the community of Forest Hills wanted to have an orchestral presence so it wasn't all just big rock bands, but to you know, class it up a bit, so to speak. I envision this to be a larger series in the years to come. We have some large names in the works for future concerts!
The Forest Hills Stadium, because of its size, seating almost 13,000 people, gives us the opportunity to book concerts that are difficult to book in a venue such as Carnegie Hall that seats just under 3,000 people. And by saying that, these summer concerts are the kinds of shows I'd book at Wolf Trap in Washington DC, Ravinia in Chicago, or when I work out of the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, so we are talking big name people that you can draw 10, 12, 13,000 people at. Big time people, big time events.
4. One thing you are continuing at Forest Hills Stadium that you do at all The New York Pops concerts at Carnegie Hall is The Kids in the Balcony series. For the summer series, you are going to be giving away at least 1,000 tickets to kids in schools around the area. For many, this will be their first time seeing an orchestral concert. That's correct. We are really excited to be able to expand our PopsEd programs through this summer offering. We are thrilled to be able to offer this [free tickets] to [underprivileged] students in all five boroughs of NYC. And tickets, where else can you buy tickets for $10? Tickets go as low as $10 and with that you can bring 4 children for free under 16-years-old. This is a very family-friendly event and we want to inspire and encourage adults to bring kids to The New York Pops so they can hear a live symphony orchestra.
5. We have briefly spoken about this in previous interviews, with The New York Pops' PopsEd Programs and Kids in the Balcony, what is it like for you knowing that this is their first time coming to a live event like this and they get to experience The New York Pops? Oh, well, it makes my heart swell because I know this feeling personally and intimately. When I was a young kid, it was exactly experiences like this, that inspired me to pursue a career in music. That's not going to be everybody's path to pursue a career in music, but we want to give people an education, an introduction, and perhaps a life long love of the arts. It makes me feel very good that The New York Pops is able to do that and that myself and the orchestra can potentially help to change a young person's life. I know exactly what that feels like and I'll never forget the meaning that that had for me in the course of my life.
6. With the new summer series if you could choose anybody to come and perform with you, who would you like that to be? (laughs) Oh, that's a very tough question because you know I already have a list, quite a substantial list, but my gut reaction, if I could pick anybody on the planet to come perform with us at Forest Hills Stadium, my gut instinct would be Adele. She's somebody I've wanted to work with for quite some time. Forest Hills Stadium would be the perfect venue to do a concert with her backed by an 80-piece orchestra.
7. If you could have any artist that has passed perform with The New York Pops, if there was a way to bring them back to life for one performance, who would you chose? Ella Fitzgerald, without question!
Steven Reineke is the Music Director and Conductor of The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, Principal Pops Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Principal Pops Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and Principal Pops Conductor Designate of the Houston Symphony, beginning in the 2017-2018 season. Mr. Reineke is a frequent guest conductor with The Philadelphia Orchestra and has been on the podium with the Boston Pops, The Cleveland Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia. His extensive North American conducting appearances include San Francisco, Houston, Seattle, Edmonton and Pittsburgh.
The New York Pops is the largest independent pops orchestra in the United States, and the only professional symphonic orchestra in New York City specializing in popular music. Under the leadership of dynamic Music Director and Conductor Steven Reineke, The New York Pops continues to re-imagine orchestral pops music. The orchestra performs an annual subscription series and birthday gala at Carnegie Hall. The New York Pops is dedicated to lifelong learning, and collaborates with public schools, community organizations, children’s hospitals and senior centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City. PopsEd allows thousands of New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds to participate in fully customizable music programs that blend traditional education with pure fun. Visit www.newyorkpops.org for more information. Follow The New York Pops on Facebook (facebook.com/newyorkpops), Instagram (@thenewyorkpops), and Twitter (@newyorkpops).
Sutton Foster is an award-winning actor, singer and dancer who has performed in 11 Broadway shows - most recently the revival of Violet - and originated roles in the Broadway productions of The Drowsy Chaperone, Little Women, Young Frankenstein, Shrek The Musical, and her Tony Award-winning performances in Anything Goes and Thoroughly Modern Millie. She was first seen on television on Star Search at age 15, and has more recently appeared in Bunheads, Psych, Johnny and the Sprites, Flight of the Conchords, Sesame Street, Law and Order: SVU and Royal Pains. As a solo artist, Sutton has performed all over the country as well as internationally with her musical director Michael Rafter, featuring songs from her debut solo CD Wish as well as her follow up CD, An Evening With Sutton Foster: Live at the Café Carlyle. She has graced the stages of Carnegie Hall, Feinstein's, Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series, Joe’s Pub and many others. In 2011 she received an Honorary Doctorate degree from Ball State University where she also is on faculty as a teacher and advisor to the Department of Theatre and Dance. Sutton is currently starring in TV Land’s new series, Younger created by Darren Star.
In 1994 in his hometown of Portland, Oregon, Thomas Lauderdale founded the "little orchestra" Pink Martini to provide more beautiful and inclusive musical soundtracks for political fundraisers for causes such as civil rights, affordable housing, the environment, libraries, public broadcasting, education and parks. One year later, Lauderdale called China Forbes, a Harvard classmate who was living in New York City, and asked her to join Pink Martini. Their first song "Sympathique" became an overnight sensation in France, was nominated for "Song of the Year" at France’s Victoires de la Musique Awards, and to this day remains a mantra ("Je ne veux pas travailler" or "I don’t want to work") for striking French workers. Says Lauderdale, "We’re very much an American band, but we spend a lot of time abroad and therefore have the incredible diplomatic opportunity to represent a broader, more inclusive America…the America which remains the most heterogeneously populated country in the world…composed of people of every country, every language, every religion." Featuring a dozen musicians, Pink Martini performs its multilingual repertoire on concert stages and with symphony orchestras throughout Europe, Asia, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, Northern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South America and North America. Pink Martini made its European debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 and its orchestral debut with the Oregon Symphony in 1998 under the direction of Norman Leyden. Since then, the band has gone on to play with more than 50 orchestras around the world, including multiple engagements with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the Boston Pops, the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center, the San Francisco Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, and the BBC Concert Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall in London. Other appearances include the grand opening of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, with return sold-out engagements for New Year’s Eve 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2011; four sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall; the opening party of the remodeled Museum of Modern Art in New York City; the Governor’s Ball at the 80th Annual Academy Awards in 2008; the opening of the 2008 Sydney Festival in Australia; multiple sold-out appearances, and a festival opening, at the Montreal Jazz Festival, two sold-out concerts at Paris’ legendary L’Olympia Theatre in 2011; and Paris’ fashion house Lanvin’s 10-year anniversary celebration for designer Alber Elbaz in 2012. In its twentieth year, Pink Martini was inducted into both the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame and the Oregon Music Hall of Fame.