I first interviewed New York Pops Music Director Steven Reineke in Februrary 2012. Since that time, he has made his Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut and has been appointed Principal Pops Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
Now Steven is back in New York, gearing up to celebrate the NY Pops 30th Anniversary Season with an amazingly gifted season of concerts. Kicking things off is an evening of Rodgers & Hammerstein on October 12 starring Broadway stars Aaron Lazar, Kelli O'Hara, and Paulo Szot. November 9 continues this great season with "By Special Request: An Evening with the Orchestra," which will feature favorite symphonic repertoires including the world premiere of a new fanfare composed by Steven himself. On December 12, the New York Pops' annual holiday concert will be "Pink Martini: Joy to the World," a special multi-denominational holiday concert features songs from the Pink Martini's best-selling album, "Joy to the World."
Carnegie Hall is located at 881 7th Avenue (between 56th & 57th Street). Click here for tickets to the above concerts!
1. Since we last spoke, you made your Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut on July 4 and you have been appointed Principal Pops Conductor by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. What was it like to make your Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut on our nations birthday? Of course, it was a special treat to spend July 4th conducting the world famous Chicago Symphony Orchestra! They are an amazing group of musicians. Sometimes I say that conducting orchestras are like test-driving cars. The CSO is definitely a Bentley, plus I had the lovely Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins) as my guest soloist and we performed outdoors at the famed Ravinia Festival.
1a. What made you want to apply for this position and how does it feel to be appointed Principal Pops Conductor? I didn’t really apply for the position with the Toronto Symphony, it’s more something that has evolved over time. They’ve never had a full-time Pops conductor and I’ve been a frequent guest with the orchestra for the past 14 years. They actually just created this position for me. It’s like we’ve had a long engagement and just got married. It also keeps me mostly based on the East Coast and in the same time zone between my 3 orchestras: New York, Washington, and Toronto.
2. The New York Pops 30th Season starts on October 12. What does it mean to you to be part of this momentous season? What are you looking forward to most about it? I’m not sure I could be any more excited about our 30th season. It will be my 4th season conducting this amazing orchestra and I’m thrilled to see that we continue to grow and thrive, bringing world-class entertainment to New York City and beyond. It’s quite possibly the finest season we’ve constructed since I’ve been the Music Director. It’s all terrific but some of the highlights for me will be reuniting with our friends Kelli O’Hara, Paulo Szot, Aaron Lazar, and Essential Voices USA for our opening night concert celebrating the glorious career of Rodgers and Hammerstein; collaborating with one of my favorite bands, Pink Martini, to celebrate the Holidays; and paying tribute to one of the greatest living theater composers of our time, Stephen Schwartz.
3. You are starting the season off with a bang...an evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein featuring Aaron Lazar, Kelli O’Hara, Paulo Szot. What made you choose to do a night of their music? Rodgers and Hammerstein are probably the most important songwriting team in American musical theater history. They revolutionized what a story musical should be, fully integrating the songs and dance into the stories as well as injecting real pathos and human issues. Not to mention, their music is exquisite, and with those 3 singers!?!? Wow! It will be a night not to be missed.
4. How did Rodgers and Hammerstein influence you as a conductor/musical director? The wealth of material that this dynamic duo created is so ingrained in our culture and musical canon. I have always wanted to conduct these brilliant scores and now I get to do just that.
5. What songs are you looking forward to performing most? "Carousel" is perhaps my favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein musical so I always look forward to that segment, with Aaron singing "If I Loved You" and Paulo performing the tour de force "Soliloquy." Also, I can’t wait to hear Kelli sing "The Sound of Music" with the original orchestration from the film, instead of the Broadway production. It’s so big and lush. I’m also really looking forward to collaborating again with New York Theatre Ballet as they recreate Agnes de Mille’s original choreography for the "Dream Ballet" from "Oklahoma."
6. What excites you most about working with Aaron, Kelli, and Paulo? It should go without saying that they are all incredibly talented singers and actors but they are all dear friends of mine too. That always makes for a special time onstage when we all have such a personal connection to each other.
7. What do you hope audiences come away with after attending this night? I think the audience will remember just how important Rodgers and Hammerstein was to the evolution of musical theater as well as be reminded how timeless and sublime their music is. It certainly will be a "Grand Night for Singing."
8. On November 9, the New York Pops will host it's second evening of their 30th Season with "By Special Request: An Evening with the Orchestra." This night will feature favorite symphonic repertoire including Ravel’s Bolero, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, and the world premiere of a new fanfare that you composed. How did you choose which repertoire's to perform for this night? Why did you want to compose a new fanfare? Did you compose this especially for the 30th Season? Over the course of my last 3 seasons with the orchestra, several patrons have told me how much they enjoy the guest artists and the programming but sometimes they would just like to hear the orchestra, hence the title "By Special Request." We’ll even have an online element, allowing patrons to vote on a piece for us to play during that concert. Other than that, I’ve programmed some of the most beautiful and powerful orchestral repertoire written for orchestra, more importantly, it’s a lot of music that doesn’t always get played by strictly classical symphonies or Pops orchestras. It’s some of the great music that "falls through the cracks" and doesn’t get heard often enough. I’m delighted to premiere a new fanfare/overture that I wrote especially for The New York Pops. It is tailor-made for our orchestra to celebrate our 30th anniversary.
9. Since this is the New York Pops 30th Season, let's go back to your first year as Musical Director/Conductor, when you took it over from New York Pops founding Musical Director/Conductor Skitch Henderson. What do remember most about that first year? How do you feel you have grown during your time as conductor? I remember how excited and a little nervous I was. It was really a demanding task with some big shoes to fill! I also needed to have some time to really get to know my musicians and the tastes of the audience. "What would they like or not like?" Four years later, I now feel very rooted in New York City and its culture. Judging by our sold-out concerts and rising subscription sales, I’d say we’re on the right track.
10. What do you look forward to about the next 30 years? I know big things are in store for The New York Pops as we develop new ways to expand our offerings, including tours, recordings, and television specials. Also, just being able to spend a life making wonderful music with some of the finest musicians on the planet!