Louisville Orchestra Music Director Teddy Abrams is a busy man, a true ambassador to the world for Louisville's artistic spirit. Rocko Jerome was lucky enough to catch him for a few moments to talk about the vast importance of keeping live music a living thing for all to enjoy.
Even if it’s not a part of your daily life, it’s impossible not to get excited about classical music when you’re in conversation with Teddy Abrams. “Orchestral music is meant to be shared,” he says. “It’s absolutely a two way dynamic. When you’re experiencing an orchestra live and in person, it becomes this living relationship. When it’s working at its absolute peak, a concert is a reflection of community at it’s best. It’s giving and taking, and ultimately about sharing an experience, a moment in time, a part of ourselves.”
Teddy has become something of a beautiful anomaly: a 21st century classical music star. Having been featured prominently on CBS This Morning, NPR, and PBS, the Music Director of the Louisville Orchestra is nothing short of a point of tremendous pride for our city. He's been recognized far and wide across international media not only for his vast virtuosity but also for his boundless enthusiasm. "I'm always intent on developing a deeper, more personal exchange with the audience," says Teddy. "We want to build a familial, ongoing bond with music and orchestra, a living relationship. This music is designed to be stirring; it's completely time- less. The idea is to build a dynamic that creates engagement and active listening. The competition for the orchestra isn't other kinds of music. It's Netflix! It's the cellphone that you can't quit checking. It's never been easier to live in front of a screen. We intend to connect with people, encourage them to leave home, put the phone in their pock- et and leave it there. Have a shared experience. Coming to see the orchestra perform is about disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with humanity.”
There's often a cynical sense in society that classical music is somehow inaccessible. That without some background or research, a full appreciation of this mu- sic is always intangible, just out of reach. Teddy feels that's not so, and he lives to prove it. "We intend to make this presentation so engaging that every second is joy. My approach is simply that if you don’t get it, there's some- thing wrong with us and what we're doing because I know the power in this mu- sic. It's a living thing, and it's so important to keep it alive."
Teddy has always loved music, and as one might expect, there was a pivotal moment early on where lightning struck him. He was nine years old when he first heard Gershwin; it was a free outdoor concert in a park in San Francisco. "My life changed that day," he recalls. Looking back, the path was a clear one. He devoted himself and grew into an accomplished clarinetist and pianist. He built a career in places around the world both as a soloist and orchestral performer before he assumed the role of conductor, settling here in our River City.
As enthusiastic as Teddy is about his life's work, he's equally so about Louisville. When you think about our burgeoning arts scene, it feels like a whole new world is being born here, and what Teddy is doing is no small part of that. The continually evolving Louisville Orchestra stands shoulder to shoulder with the revitalized Speed Museum, 21c Museum Hotel, Kentucky Opera, and Actors Theatre, to name a few. "It's so fantastic to watch how Louisville grows, how these connections build. I watch what's happening, and it feels like a renaissance. It's an honor to be active with artists both outside and inside of this orchestra. You know, Louisville Orchestra members don't just live here, they often move here. They're consummate professionals who make it through a rigorous audition process and come to make a life here in Louisville. This is a city where art happens, and art isn't about living in the past or spending your time in reflection. Art is about what you’re about to do.”
The Louisville Orchestra’s 2019 Season
This season marks Teddy's sixth with the Louisville Orchestra, and it represents a stellar sense of balance between the past, present, and future. It's a very carefully curated series of performances, all designed to strike a profoundly personal chord with listeners and engage with a wide variety of interests. Here are just a few highlights:
FREE AT THE IROQUOIS AMPHITHEATER
September 7, Iroquois Amphitheater
A twilight performance at a beautiful outdoor venue, this night will feature stirring music by Dvorak, Kittel, Tchaikovsky, and feature a guest spot from renowned Kentucky cellist Ben Sollee. Sponsored by LG&E and Brown Forman, it's sure to be a lovely evening for all, open to the public and absolutely free.
FAMILY: SUPERHEROINES AND HEROES
October 5th, The Brown Theatre
It's an undeniable fact that movie scores make up the primary exposure to orchestral music for many of us. The performance on this day centers around some choice favorites from modern composers like John Williams and Danny Elfman, celebrating those familiar and undeniably catchy tunes from Superman, Star Wars, and the 1989 Batman.
VIOLINS OF HOPE
October 25th-26th, Kentucky Center
In a two night series and part of a tour- ing exhibition, the Louisville Orchestra performs using restored violins that survived the holocaust. Performances will include music from the John Wil- liams score for Schindler's List as well as Michael Tilson Thomas' From the Diary of Anne Frank. If the idea of this gives you cold chills, you are not alone.