Popslove: An Interview with the Michigan Pops Orchestra

Looking for a way to spice up your Sunday? Go no further than the Michigan Pops Orchestra’s annual fall concert. As I sat down with Pops members Jen and Kevin, it became pretty apparent that this year’s Once Upon a Time show will promise a good time to the audience – no strings attached.


What is the Michigan Pops Orchestra? 

Kevin: The Michigan Pops Orchestra is the oldest student-run orchestra of its kind in the country (don’t let the Harvard Pops Orchestra try to tell you otherwise!). Our pops orchestra is centered around giving performance opportunities for non-music majors. We’re a pretty diverse group: undergraduates, grad students, engineers, law school students – in total, 100 students from all across campus.


Classical music isn’t really known for being a popular genre with 20-somethings. How does the Pops Orchestra make shows more fun for college students?

Kevin: One of our goals is to give students a completely different idea of what an orchestra show is like – this isn’t just some stuffy classical show. We mix more traditional orchestra pieces with atypical sounds for an orchestra. We’ve done Lady Gaga, Led Zeppelin, even techno – for that show, we turned off all the lights and passed out glow sticks to all of our audience members. We’re all about giving our listeners something they never expected.


Tell us more about the Once Up a Time show. 

Kevin: We wanted to give the audience more than just a show – we wanted to give them a whole story. So we came up with the idea of ‘Once Upon a Time’, where we’ll incorporate stories that we all know pretty well. We’ll be playing a lot of new pieces for our orchestra – pieces from Fantasia, The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones, Sweeney Todd. We’ll be playing a lot of show tunes, a new opera piece we haven’t played before, with some classical pieces mixed in.


What can the audience expect to see at the show?

Jen: Pure awesomeness and a whole lot of orchestra camaraderie – or as we call it, “popslove.” If you haven’t been to one of our pops shows before, you can expect to see a show that you’ve never seen before – full of music, videos, and actors. It’s not going to be a traditional show. We’re going to give more than just a performance – we’ll tell the audience a whole story. Add in a dash of humor and you have some idea of what’s going on.


What piece are you most excited to play?

Kevin: Candide, an operetta composed by Leonard Bernstein. It’s based on Candide, the book by Voltaire. It’s upbeat, with some great melodies, just like most of the pieces Bernstein composed. I’ve played it before and it’s been one of my favorite pieces.

Jen: I’m excited to play songs from Harry Potter. The music is hard to play, but we do it well. With the movie series coming to an end, I think it’ll be a great piece for the audience.


What’s it like being a member of the Pops Orchestra?

Jen: The Pops Orchestra is all about popslove. We’ve really built a community within our orchestra. With all of our rehearsals and shows, we have a lot of time to bond and become really close.

Kevin: Many of us meet our best friends through Pops – I met my fiancee in the orchestra. I guess you could say the Michigan Pops Orchestra is one big stringed family.


Finish this sentence: “Everyone should go see the Once Upon a Time show because…”

Jen: It won’t be anything like what you’ll expect. It’s a lot of fun, and I swear you’ll keep coming back if you give it a try.

Kevin: It will change your life.


Wow Kevin, that’s a big promise. 

Kevin: Oh, I know. I mean it.


The Michigan Pops Orchestra’s annual fall show will be held at the Michigan Theater on November 20th at 7 pm. Tickets are on sale now at the Michigan Theater Box Office or with any Michigan Pops Orchestra Member. Ticket prices are $5 for students, $8 for adults. 



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