August 12, 2010

Q&A with Jeff Tyzik on the 2010-2011 Season

This coming season, the RPO’s Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik leads the orchestra for all the best in popular music, featuring jazz, Broadway, the return of Bugs Bunny to Rochester, and our festive tradition of Gala Holiday Pops. I had a chance to talk with Jeff to find out more about the upcoming Pops concerts.

The Pops Series opens with a tribute to the Music of Ray Charles. Tell us more about Ellis Hall, the featured guest that night.

Ellis Hall has worked with Michael McDonald and other artists. He is endorsed by the Ray Charles family as an artist that most represents the Ray Charles sound. He recently had a successful concert with the Boston Pops. He sings the hits of Ray Charles, plays B3 Hammond Organ and a background vocal group comes with him to lend an air of authenticity for the Ray Charles sound.

Use this link for a video clip of Ellis Hall singing "Georgia on My Mind."

Note: the Pops season opening concert also includes a Red Carpet Spectacular with a Wegmans culinary extravaganza. Click here for more information.

We have a few guest artists coming back this season with new projects, including Debbie Gravitte, Wycliffe Gordon, and Michael Cavanaugh. Can you tell us more about those concerts?

Each of these artists is a top entertainer and it will be fun to see them return with a new show. We will feature Debbie doing eclectic Broadway and swing music. Wycliffe will be doing his signature jazz and then a whole half of a concert dedicated to the mix of gospel music and jazz. Michael Cavanaugh—who was here for the tribute to Billy Joel—will now unveil his tribute to Elton John.

And we hear you’re working with actor and singer Keith David on a tribute to Nat King Cole —how did that come about?

Both Chris Stager, our marketing consultant, and Byron Stripling, a performer who has had many appearances with the RPO, suggested Keith David. He is a wonderful actor who happens to love the music of Nat King Cole. His voice has an uncanny resemblance to Nat King Cole and I am creating this concert for its first performance here in Rochester.

The Rochester City Ballet will be part of the Pops Series for the first time this season, although Jamey Leverett has choreographed dances to your music before, for Bravo! Colorado. What is that process like?

I have had two experiences working with Jamey Leverett and the RCB. These experiences have been among the most profound of my career. I'm looking forward to this interesting and unique opportunity to have two of Rochester's most important cultural assets on stage at the same time.

What is one of your funniest or oddest RPO concert (or rehearsal) memories ...

One of the funniest and most stressful was the time we had the Mambo Kings in the orchestra pit. They were supposed to rise on the elevator while we were playing together during the performance. We had a stage crew member in the pit who had to press a button to activate the upward movement of the elevator while the concert was in progress. We were all playing and when he pressed the button, nothing happened. Everyone was panicked. It took a few minutes to realize that the stage manager at the time had forgotten to activate the switch from backstage. It's funny now, but at the time it was terrifying.

We know you like to cook – what are some of your favorite meals this summer?

This summer is all about light meals. Grilling local vegetables. Eating our local fruits like raspberries, strawberries and peaches and lots of seafood from Wegmans.

Where are your travels taking you during the summer break?

I'll be spending time on the North Fork of Long Island, NY—at the very tip of Long Island—and then a little time on Cape Cod. Both locations are near the ocean. Early morning walks on the beach to clear my head and get ready for the new season. I also get to spend good time with Jill and of course our dog, Puccini.

Click here for a full list of the 2010-11 Pops Series.

Tickets go on sale August 30, but become a season ticket holder now and you can save up to 20% off individual ticket prices, plus have additional benefits such as the no-hassle ticket exchange and Subscriber Standby. For more information on subscribing, click here, or call 454-2100.

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