Steven Reineke: A personality that really Pops

Stevenreineke.com
Steven Reineke is never this still while he’s onstage conducting the NY Pops.
Credit: Michael Tammaro

You know the old saying, “I would watch that man conduct the phone book”? Well maybe we paraphrased slightly, but it certainly applies to Steven Reineke, the music director of the New York Pops and the principal pops conductor for both the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in Canada and the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. Reineke, who is also a composer himself, is most widely known for his effusive dance moves and obvious passion onstage as he brings to life a wide variety of popular scores. We caught up with the charismatic conductor earlier this month following a tribute to Stephen Schwartz, celebrating the acclaimed composer’s 65th birthday as well as the 10th year of his Broadway megahit, “Wicked.” You can see Reineke bring his musical magic to Carnegie Hall on April 29 at 7 p.m. as he leads the Pops’ 30th birthday gala, closing out the 2012-2013 season (www.newyorkpops.org).

Do you believe that there’s a disconnect between today’s younger audiences and formal musical performances?

No, I don’t believe so, [not] for a Pops concert. It’s certainly my mission to welcome a younger demographic into the concert hall, and we’re seeing evidence that that’s happening. We definitely have subscribers in an older age bracket who have been around supporting the orchestra for the last 30 years. The programming we’re doing – [like] a Stephen Schwartz concert — will attract a lot of people. But when we even do Rodgers and Hammerstein or Lerner and Loewe, I pair that with some of the great young talent that’s out there today. And that brings in a lot of younger audience members. We’ve done a number of shows that have brought in younger people as well. I like to do something for everybody.

When you were young, were you already into musical theater?

I was. I was always into all kinds of music from a very early age. I started to play music when I was 10 years old. Musical theater really hit me early in high school, when I really found a great love of that. But there are so many types of music that I love.

And were you a fan of Stephen Schwartz?

Oh yeah, I was a big fan of Stephen Schwartz. I knew all the “Godspell” music early on, because that musical was very popular. In college, I was a trumpet major and I played trumpet in the pit orchestra of our college production of “Pippin,” and I remember how much I just fell in love with that musical. That’s always been one of my all-time favorites, so I said: “Who is Stephen Schwartz?” I really wanted to know everything about him and everything he wrote. There’s so much great music. And we hadn’t heard from him for a while when he moved to Hollywood and started doing all those Disney films. I didn’t know if he was going to write another musical, and then — boom! — here comes “Wicked,” which is his masterpiece. It’s just absolutely brilliant.

Have you seen the revival of “Pippin” that’s now on Broadway?

Yes, I went to see the new “Pippin” a couple weeks ago. I really loved this new production of it. It’s not updated musically; there was one other performance where they tinkered with the music to make it sound more modern, but I liked the fact that they kept the sound of “Pippin” from its original production. But the visuals and the storytelling and the way they added the circus performers is stunning.

Do you enjoy conducting the same kind of music you enjoy composing?

Yes, I always love conducting one of my own pieces — it’s always a great, great thrill. To conduct all different types of music everything from ballet scores to film scores to big band jazz to movie music, everything takes a little bit different skill set and different nuances and that’s always a great challenge.

Do you have any advice for youngsters who want to get into the field?

Pick another job. [Laughs] No, not really. The best advice for being in the arts in general is perseverance. We all get shot down a lot in the arts. When you’re younger you hear a lot of times “you’re going to be a starving artist” or “you should really get a degree in education so you have something to fall back on.” I never liked that philosophy. You really have to know in your heart of hearts that you love this and you have to be prepared to hear no a lot of times, and get up the next day and still go out there and try to make it. Because then one day you’re going to get that “yes” you’ve been looking for.

I think it’s evident that in your heart of hearts you have a passion for this. What else do you ascribe to your success? Because people are really drawn to you personally.

Oh boy, I don’t know exactly what that is. I do try to break down the barriers between the audience and the orchestra and the performers so that it feels pretty much – even when we’re in a large hall, like Carnegie Hall or when I’m directing the NSO at the Kennedy Center, that I like it to feel a lot more intimate like we’re just doing music in a living room – like I often do – for friends. So I want it to be very welcoming and inviting to people but I don’t know, I get told all the time that I just have great dance moves when I’m up there, so that helps at times.

Speaking of NSO – you’re taking the Schwartz concert down there?

That is correct – you can come to Washington, D.C., where we’ll be playing three performances of [the Schwartz tribute] at the Kennedy Center.

What’s up next?

This is the end of our season, so I’m really excited for our 30th anniversary gala. It’s going to be such a star-studded cast — and by honoring Frank Loesser, Jule Styne and Danny Kaye, we have an incredible canon of music to pick from.

Does that mean you get a break?

We have a little bit of a break. I don’t have much of a rest, because I also conduct the NSO and the Toronto Symphony [Orchestra]. And my summers, I guest conduct all over the continent. But the NY Pops will have a little bit of time off as we gear up for next season to open in October.

Anything else?

I’m ready for a cocktail.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Chestnut Hill College student found dead Wednesday morning

A 22-year-0ld Chestnut Hill College student was found dead this morning inside a college dormitory, police said.

International

Nearly 300 missing after South Korean ferry capsizes

Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea Wednesday, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years.

News

Explosions in new Boston Marathon bomb panic, 'twisted'…

A fresh Boston Marathon terror alert, which caused Bomb Squad officers to order an evacuation while two controlled explosions were carried out, was today being…

Local

D.A. Williams opens new unit to focus exclusively…

D.A. Seth Williams announced Tuesday that he has opened a new unit focused entirely on investigating wrongful conviction claims.

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, April 16: 'The Americans,'…

'The Americans' Philip and Elizabeth face "painful turns" in their missions. Maybe next week they'll have a nice easy mission with no moral ambiguity? Probably…

Movies

Review: 'Bears' is a cute Disney doc about…

Disney's latest nature doc, "Bears," doesn't completely shy away from the fact that its subjects would devour you (or eachother) if they had the chance.

Television

'Orphan Black's' Jordan Gavaris talks Felix's Season 2…

Jordan Gavaris plays heroically helpful foster sibling Felix to main clone Sarah on "Orphan Black." We talked to him about what’s ahead for him in…

Going Out

Here's what to do in Philly this weekend

FILM 'Through a Lens Darkly'  Thursday, April 17, 6 p.m. Philadelphia Photo Arts Center 1400 N. American St. Free, RSVP required, 215-232-5678 www.philaphotoarts.org Join Philadelphia…

U.S. Soccer

Andrew Wenger has big shoes to fill on…

Lancaster County native Andrew Wenger will feel pressure to fill the shoes of departer forward Jack McInerney.

NBA

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could…

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could the Mavericks surprise?

NBA

Sixers, Michael Carter-Williams give fans a happy ending…

The 2013-14 season for the 76ers has nearly come to a close.

NHL

Flyers must make Rangers feel their presence

Perhaps it’s the proximity of the two biggest cities in the East, because whenever these two square off the intensity seems to rise.

Wellbeing

Could a facelift give you the edge at…

It's not just women lining up for procedures.

Home

Steal home decorating tips from Nattystyle blogger Natalie…

Despite the towering ceilings and enviable exposed brick, it’s easy to see how Natalie Decleve’s apartment could be considered a challenge. Perched above the streets…

Home

How to plant a garden in the city

Small on space but big on gardening? You can still have that welcoming oasis of fresh air with an urban garden. Peter Smith, owner of…

Style

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show moving to England

It will still broadcast on CBS this fall.