Houston Symphony Cancels Performances due to Hurricane Harvey

Dear Patron,

As our city and region continues to suffer from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, we hope that you and your loved ones are safe and secure.

During this difficult time, we want to keep you as up to date as possible. We previously shared with you that this past weekend’s Ella at 100 POPS Series performances were cancelled. We are sorry to share the disappointing news that, due to repairs at Jones Hall as a result of complications from the storm, the following concerts scheduled for next week have also been CANCELLED:

  • The Best of John Williams (Wednesday, September 6 at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion). This program will be included in The Pavilion’s 2018 performing arts season. Refunds are available at the point of purchase.
  • Opening Night Concert and Gala with Susan Graham (Saturday, September 9 at Jones Hall)
  • Fiesta Sinfónica (Sunday, September 10 at Jones Hall; free concert – no action required)

If you purchased concert tickets for Opening Night with Susan Graham, no action is required on your part at this time. Our Patron Services Center will re-open on Tuesday, September 5 at 10am. At that time, our representatives will assist you by:

  • Donating the value of your ticket back to the Houston Symphony (you will
    receive a tax receipt for the value of your ticket)
  • Exchanging your ticket for any other Houston Symphony 2017-18 season performance with no additional fees

If you have ticketing questions while the Patron Services Center is closed, please contact Jenny Zuniga (Director, Patron Services) at jenny.zuniga@houstonsymphony.org.

If you supported Opening Night with a purchase of a ticket to both the Concert and Gala Dinner, we are sincerely grateful for your commitment to Opening Night and the education and community programming it supports. We hope you will consider converting your Opening Night support to an unrestricted donation to help the Symphony maintain its operations during this period of uncertainty. If this is not possible, we will be contacting you soon to discuss other options for your support of this event.

Please contact Monica Simon (Director, Special Events) at monica.simon@houstonsymphony.org if you have any questions. Alternatively, you may contact David Chambers (Interim Co-Executive Director/Chief Development Officer) at david.chambers@houstonsymphony.org.

Jones Hall’s condition permitting, it is our intention to begin the 2017-18 Season on Thursday, September 14 with Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada leading the Houston Symphony and Chorus.

As the rebuilding process begins, we look forward to bringing you an outstanding 2017-18 Season, and to helping Houstonians heal through the art of music. Thank you for your understanding. We can’t wait to see you in the concert hall.

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Status of the Houston Symphony – Hurricane Harvey update

Dear Houston Symphony family member,

Our hearts go out to everyone in our beloved Houston community affected by Hurricane Harvey. This is an incredibly challenging time for all of us.

Many members of the Houston Symphony family are safe and dry; however, some musicians, staff, Board, Chorus and League members have had water in their homes or lost power, and some have also needed to evacuate their homes. Like the rest of our city, we will not know the full extent of the storm’s impact for some time.

Our performance home, Jones Hall, had some water penetration, but we are fortunate that the stage and auditorium appear to have been untouched. Water did reach the basement level, where some equipment was stored, but we moved the most valuable and hard-to-replace items to higher floors prior to Harvey’s arrival. The Theater District garages are flooded and therefore are not accessible.

Unfortunately, we had to cancel this past weekend’s performances of Ella at 100 on September 1-3. If you had tickets, our Patron Services Center has already contacted you via e-mail. Additionally, we are sorry to share that, due to repairs at Jones Hall as a result of complications from the storm, the following concerts scheduled for next week have also been CANCELLED:

  • The Best of John Williams (Wednesday, September 6 at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion). This program will be included in The Pavilion’s 2018 performing arts season. Refunds are available at the point of purchase.
  • Opening Night Concert and Gala with Susan Graham (Saturday, September 9 at Jones Hall)
  • Fiesta Sinfónica (Sunday, September 10 at Jones Hall; free concert – no action required)

If you purchased concert tickets for Opening Night with Susan Graham, no action is required on your part at this time. Our Patron Services Center will re-open on Tuesday, September 5 at 10am. At that time, our representatives will assist you by:

  • Donating the value of your ticket back to the Houston Symphony (you will
    receive a tax receipt for the value of your ticket)
  • Exchanging your ticket for any other Houston Symphony 2017-18 season performance with no additional fees

Please direct any ticket inquiries while the Patron Service Center is closed to Jenny Zuniga, Director, Patron Services, at jenny.zuniga@houstonsymphony.org.

Houston Symphony administrative offices and the Patron Services Center will be closed through Monday, September 4. We hope to be back at work next week, but for our employees’ safety, we must ascertain the condition of offices and parking before announcing an official re-open date.

We deeply appreciate the tireless work of our colleagues at Houston First, Theater District Houston, and Jones Hall’s resident engineering and security companies. We are also grateful for the outpouring of support from members of the Houston Symphony family, the Houston community and orchestras across the country.

To support Houstonians who have suffered from flooding, we encourage you to support Mayor Sylvester Turner’s relief fund here: ghcf.org/hurricane-relief.

Among your many priorities at this time, please consider helping the Houston Symphony maintain its operations during this period of uncertainty. You may do so here: bit.ly/1oSL3eP

We thank you for all that you do for the Houston Symphony. We are eager to begin the cleanup and recovery process, and to provide an outstanding 2017-18 Season of concerts and community programs. As Houston’s orchestra, we look forward to helping our city to heal, bringing the people of our community together through the inspiring power of music.

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our Interim Co-Executive Directors – David Chambers at david.chambers@houstonsymphony.org or Amanda Dinitz at amanda.dinitz@houstonsymphony.org.

Take care, and be safe.

Janet F. Clark
Houston Symphony Society
Board President

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Music and Literacy at Camp Adventure!

Houston Symphony Community-Embedded Musician Anthony Parce leads students in a scarf dance at Camp Adventure!

Houston Symphony Community-Embedded Musician Anthony Parce leads students in a scarf dance at Camp Adventure!

Imagine a classroom full of 6-year-olds moving around with big smiles on their faces, waving colorful scarves to music. Sounds like child’s play, right? What we can’t see when we observe this seemingly simple scene, however, is that some real and important learning is happening alongside all the fun. These children are developing key literacy skills through music.

This past summer, the Houston Symphony collaborated with Camp Adventure!, the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation’s summer literacy camp. Over the course of four weeks, the Symphony’s Community-Embedded Musicians provided daily, free music classes for nearly 200 K-2nd grade students. These music classes supported the Foundation’s goal to influence student language proficiency and cognitive development.

“The scarf dancing activity is a favorite of mine because it gets the kids actively involved. While they’re having a great time, they’re also developing key musical skills like steady beat, rhythm and pitch,” says Anthony Parce, Houston Symphony Community-Embedded Musician. Bowling Green State University researcher Joyce Eastlund Gromko states that “when children learn to discriminate fine differences between tonal and rhythmic patterns and to associate their perceptions with visual symbols, they will benefit not only musically but in skills related to the processing of sound shown to be necessary for reading.”

Symphony Story Time

In addition to the scarf dance, Anthony and his colleagues worked with students by singing at story time. “Some of the songs we used this year have corresponding books, and the kids love reading the books, learning the songs and singing the story along with the book,” says Community-Embedded Musician Hellen Weberpal. “Using music is a fun and creative way to encourage kids to read. Getting to be the first introduction some of these kids have to music is also a great privilege, and I work hard to make it enjoyable for all of them.”

Community-Embedded Musician Helen Weberpal reads to students as Anthony Parce provides musical accompaniment.

Community-Embedded Musician Hellen Weberpal reads to students as Anthony Parce provides musical accompaniment.

Sharing the joy of music with children while helping to address a key community need like early childhood literacy is exactly what the Houston Symphony is accomplishing through its education and community engagement work. “We are committed to doing what we can to contribute to the quality of life for all Houstonians. This initiative, along with similar literacy-based collaborations with Houston ISD during the regular school year, demonstrates our dedication to support student academic achievement through music,” says Amanda Dinitz, Interim Co-Executive Director.

While the link between music and literacy is powerful, what’s important to the kids at Camp Adventure! is that they’re having fun. When asked if she liked the class, kindergartner Hayden Zaval was enthusiastic, “It’s about singing, and I love singing!”
Pam French Blaine, Chief of Education and Community Programming

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The Music Man—Meet Steven Reineke

Maestro Steven Reineke becomes the Houston Symphony's new Principal POPS Conductor this season.

Maestro Steven Reineke becomes the Houston Symphony’s new Principal POPS Conductor this season.

This season, the Houston Symphony welcomes its dynamic new Principal POPS Conductor, Steven Reineke. In addition to his new post in Houston, this in-demand conductor is also the Music Director 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 and Principal Pops Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Get to know the charming new maestro and emcee of our BBVA Compass POPS Series in this exclusive interview. 

Houston Symphony: What inspired you to become a pops conductor? When did you know this was what you wanted to do?

Erich Kunzel led the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra for 32 years.

Erich Kunzel led the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra for 32 years.

Steven Reineke: I didn’t consider being a pops conductor (or any conductor for that matter) until my mid-20s. I started out wanting to be a professional trumpet player, but then my love of composition took over, and I focused on becoming a film music composer in Los Angeles for a few years. My path started to become clearer for me when I became Erich Kunzel’s assistant at the Cincinnati Pops in 1995. Although I was serving as the principal composer and arranger for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, I began conducting lessons with Maestro Kunzel within my first few years of working with him. I guess you could say that is when I caught a serious bug to become a conductor and to focus on popular music. I love the wide array of musical styles Pops offers, and I certainly love the showmanship and entertainment aspect of the job. By age 27 or so, I knew I had found my true calling in life.

HS: What was the first big break in your career?

SR: It’s so hard to pinpoint just one moment that I would consider my “big break.” One could be when I was hired by Maestro Carmon DeLeone (Music Director of the Cincinnati Ballet) to orchestrate his full length ballet version of Peter Pan. Carmon composed the music but asked me to do the orchestrations. This garnered the attention of Erich Kunzel which helped me land the job as his assistant. Another could be when I had to step in at a moment’s notice to conduct my first full orchestra concert when Maestro Kunzel had fallen ill. Yet another would be when the Modesto Symphony created the position of Principal Pops Conductor and offered me my first full time job as a conductor of an orchestra. I don’t believe there is truly one magical moment but a series of fortuitous events that lead a person to success.

HS: So far, what have been some of your most memorable concerts as a conductor? 

"...all while being heckled incessantly by the curmudgeonly Waldorf and Statler..."

“…all while being heckled incessantly by the curmudgeonly Waldorf and Statler…”

SR: One of my favorite concerts of all time was a family concert we created for The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, The Musical World of Jim Henson. I shared the stage with Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and the rest of the Muppets, all while being heckled incessantly by the curmudgeonly Waldorf and Statler from their box seats in Carnegie Hall.

Another concert I’m very proud of was a recreation of Marvin Gaye’s iconic album What’s Going On that featured John Legend. In between songs, we incorporated commentary and poetry by teenagers of all backgrounds from around the country, juxtaposing their views on “what’s going on” now with Marvin Gaye’s brilliant lyrics and music of the ’60s and early ’70s. I helped create that show for performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. with our National Symphony Orchestra, and we subsequently performed it at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles with the LA Philharmonic.

HS: While this will be your first season as Principal POPS Conductor, you have already appeared with the Houston Symphony many times. What have been your impressions of Houston so far?

SR: My biggest draw to accept the position was the incredible talent and musicianship of the orchestra, plus the fact that the players are such nice people who are very easy to work with. I’ve also made some friends outside the orchestra that I always enjoy seeing when I’m in town.

Steven Reineke conducting the 2016 Houston Symphony Star-Spangled Salute.

Steven Reineke conducting the Houston Symphony’s 2016 Star-Spangled Salute.

HS: In addition to being a conductor, you are also a widely-performed composer and arranger. How does your experience as a composer and arranger inform your work as a conductor?

SR: Orchestrations and arrangements in the symphonic pops genre are one of the most important keys to a successful concert. Even the casual listener can hear the difference between an ordinary arrangement and one that really makes the music pop. My background allows me to determine very quickly what arrangements are the best, and I also look forward to creating many of my own special arrangements and compositions for the Houston Symphony.

HS: As our new Principal POPS Conductor, what do you hope to bring to the Houston Symphony’s BBVA Compass POPS Series? 

SR: I’m looking forward to some incredibly entertaining and interesting programming and guest artists. I hope to reach out to the greater Houston community and expand our audience with a diverse mix of fun music. It’s also very important to me to continually raise the bar of excellence for the orchestra. The bottom line is that I want us all to have a lot of fun at each show and to be amazed at how incredible our magnificent Houston Symphony is.

HS: You’ve decided to begin your first season as Principal Pops Conductor with Ella at 100—a musical celebration of Ella Fitzgerald’s 100th birthday. Why begin with Ella?  

"I almost always put on Ella as my background soundtrack."

“I almost always put on Ella as my background soundtrack.”

SR: I have often been asked in interviews “Who haven’t you worked with as a guest artist that you would like to work with?” Invariably, I throw them off with my answer of Ella Fitzgerald. I’m not often star-struck anymore, but I would give just about anything to have met Ella or to have seen her perform. She is my personal favorite “girl singer” of all time. When I’m cooking dinner or having a party at my place, I almost always put on Ella as my background soundtrack. Not only was she one of the greatest jazz singers of all time, male or female, but her repertoire is full of extraordinary songs. There is so much more I want to say about Miss Ella, but I’ll save that for the concert.

HS: What are some of the other BBVA Compass POPS concerts Houston audiences can look forward to this season? 

SR: I must say that the entire series is terrific—you won’t want to miss anything! To take one example, I’m very excited about November’s Broadway Today program, which I’ve done at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center to rave reviews. It will feature a dear friend of mine named Betsy Wolfe, who is currently starring in the hit musical Waitress on Broadway. It contains some of the biggest hit Broadway songs of the past 30 years all the way up to today, including a few surprises—but you’ll have to be there to witness them.

I’m also really looking forward to our Very Merry Pops concerts this year, as I’m creating a new show with the brilliant Megan Hilty based on her incredible holiday album. Another highlight will be a show called One Hit Wonders with the inimitable Storm Large as guest vocalist. I’ve been wanting to create this show for years, and I’m so happy to finally debut it in Houston.

Don’t miss Steven Reineke at Ella at 100 September 1, 2 & 3. Get tickets and more info here.

Posted in 2017-18 Season, Pops, Q&A | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Musical Mentor Celebrates Success

In May 2016, we published a post about a talented, young saxophone player named Salvador Flores. In the post below, Salvodor’s mentor, Houston Symphony Community-Embedded Musician David Connor, gives us an uplifting update regarding this young Houstonian’s most recent accomplishments.

Community-Embedded Musician David Conner with students at Galena Park High School in 2016.

Galena Park High School band director Jessie Meng and Community-Embedded Musician David Conner work with students in 2015.

Every once in a while, the Houston Symphony is fortunate to work with some of the music world’s rising stars. As one of the Symphony’s Community-Embedded Musicians, I get to be on the front lines of these exciting partnerships by making regular visits to work with band and orchestra students through our annual High School Residencies. Throughout the year, the Houston Symphony musicians and I get to be a part of the musical growth of both ensembles and individual musicians. One such musician who has made all of us particularly proud is saxophonist Salvador Flores of the Galena Park High School Band.

Salvador (pictured at right, the first in the row) rehearses with fellow band students at Galena Park High School.

Salvador (pictured at right, the first in the row) rehearses with fellow band students (2015).

I met Salvador at the beginning of his junior year on my first visit to Galena Park High School. The students were getting ready for their solo and ensemble competition, and I was blown away by the preparation and fine musicianship that I heard from each of the musicians that played that day. When Salvador played a viciously difficult étude on the alto saxophone with the clarity and nuance that you would expect from a seasoned professional, I couldn’t believe my ears. Salvador had just started to take private lessons and had never left Houston to study with anyone else. I knew he wanted to pursue music, so I sat down with his wonderful teacher, Jessie Meng, and we came up with a plan.

Salvador was already first chair of the Texas All-State Band (no small feat as a sophomore), so we hoped to send him further afield to the kind of challenging environment that would push him to achieve more. He applied and was accepted to the Interlochen Center for the Arts for their two-month summer festival. Here he made an important connection with professor Timothy McAllister, who performed John Adams’ Saxophone Concerto with the Houston Symphony during our 2016-17 season. To say they hit it off would be an understatement based on how much Salvador grew over the summer.

Salvador performs for patrons before a recent Houston Symphony concert at Jones Hall.

Salvador performs for patrons before a recent Houston Symphony concert at Jones Hall.

Not only did he come back with an incredible command of the instrument, he had a determination and focus that you don’t typically see at his age. He knew what competitions he would apply for and what college he wanted to attend. At this point we got to all sit back and watch as Salvador won a prize at the prestigious YoungArts Competition in Miami in January. Later that spring, he was accepted into his top choice college, the University of Michigan with professor Timothy McAllister! We are so happy to see Salvador flourish and to be a part of his network of support.

We expect big things from Salvador, who throughout his journey has remained humble and continues to lift and support his colleagues in the Galena Park High School Band. If you would like to help Salvador make the next step, you can help provide the much-needed funds for Salvador’s books, supplies, and flights to and from the University of Michigan through his gofundme campaign. We’ll all be watching Salvador, and we look forward to seeing him in Houston and wherever his path may lead him!

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