1. When did you realize you wanted to be a conductor?
I knew I wanted to actively pursue a career as a Pops conductor only about 3 years ago, although I've had an interest in it for several years. Erich Kunzel was a huge inspiration for me starting back in 1995 when I first became his assistant. I also remember being a big geek in my bedroom conducting to recordings when I was about 10 years old!
2. What instruments do you play?
I started out as a trumpet player and that's what got me a scholarship for college where I earned a trumpet performance degree. Unfortunately, I haven't picked up a trumpet in about 16 years. However, I am a self-taught pianist and I love to play that instrument as much as possible. I'm also trying to learn the accordion in my spare time. Please don't hold that against me.
3. What has been your favorite New York moment?
No question it was the moment I took the stage conducting the New York Pops for their 25th anniversary gala. I had performed on that stage as a trumpet player with the Dayton Junior Philharmonic when I was 17 and later heard my original compositions played by the Cincinnati Pops in that hall throughout the mid-1990's, but when I finally walked onstage to conduct my first concert there, I was in heaven.
4. What was going through your mind when you made your Carnegie Hall debut last year at The New York Pops 25th Birthday Gala?
How did a little music geek from a small town in Ohio make it here! I guess the answer is true... practice, practice, practice. Also, tenacity and a little bit of luck.
5. This is your second time conducting a New York Pops gala. Are you more/less nervous? Excited?
I'm just as excited about it if not more so because it is now with my home orchestra. That's also what makes me more nervous. There is a lot to live up to by trying to fill Skitch's shoes. I just know I have to be myself and bring my own attributes to the party.
6. The first half of the program will feature the world premiere of Stephen Flaherty's American River Suite. What extra preparation goes into conducting a world premiere?
Thankfully, I've know Stephen for about 10 years so we've spent time discussing the piece and I've been able to find out what he wants me to pull out of it. It helps immensely that it's a fantastic piece and was brilliantly orchestrated by David Hamilton
7. Next season opens with a new work written by you, The New York Pops Fanfare, what is your inspiration for that piece?
The excitement and hustle and bustle of that incredible city. Also, the thrill of new possibilities as the orchestra and I start a new chapter together.
8. Is there a theme to the 2009-2010 New York Pops season?
We haven't really stuck with a theme to program the season but rather offer a little bit up to satisfy the most people. I think there is something for everyone and I'm really excited to get it under way.
9. Who did you listen to growing up?
I listened to everything from Peter Frampton and Chicago to Ella Fitzgerald to Mahler and Beethoven. I just like good music, no matter what genre. I think my first love of music came from my dad at a very early age. He used to play his guitar and sing me to sleep with American folk music every night until I was about 13.
10. If I pressed play on your iPod, what would I hear?
Currently it is Elvis's "Viva Las Vegas" because I just finished conducting a "Pops Goes Vegas" show in San Diego. I use it a lot to study for concerts. More often than not though, it is on something by Ella Fitzgerald. She's who I put on to relax. She's the queen to me. I just love her!
Liz Smith hosts the 7 PM concert, which honors the tenth anniversary of Feinstein's at Loews Regency and its co-creators Michael Feinstein and Jonathan Tisch.
The Pops will be joined by a roster of theatre talent that includes Cheyenne Jackson (All Shook Up, Xanadu), Tony Award nominee Brian d'Arcy James (Shrek, The Sweet Smell of Success) and Tony Award winners Idina Menzel (Rent, Wicked, Brian Stokes Mitchell (Ragtime) and Anika Noni Rose (Caroline, or Change). Also set to perform are legendary singer/songwriting duo Ashford & Simpson and cabaret icon Michael Feinstein.
A particularly notable portion of the program will be the world premiere of Stephen Flaherty and William Schermerhorn's American River Suite, a work dedicated to Henry Hudson's historic voyage. Idina Menzel and Anika Noni Rose lend their vocal chops to the new composition, which was commissioned for the Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks.
A black tie dinner dance at the Pierre Hotel will follow the performance. There will be a live auction led by Nicholas Lowry of Swan Galleries.
Gala Tickets range from $1,000 for one concert ticket and dinner seating to $50,000 for a premier first tier box and dinner table for eight. For more information about the benefit dinner dance at the Pierre call 646-435-4875.
Single tickets for the concert are priced from $55 to $150 and are open to the public. To purchase tickets call CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800, stop by the box office or visit www.carnegiehall.org.
For further information, visit New York Pops.