Pittsburgh Symphony Announces New Pops Conductor

Jan 7, 2020

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's Pops series is under new leadership. Musician and entertainer Byron Stripling will serve as the next principal conductor of the PSO Pops series. Stripling has performed at Carnegie Hall and with the jazz bands of Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and Dave Brubek.

Currently, Stripling is the artistic director of the Columbus Jazz Orchestra. In Pittsburgh, he’ll take the post left by former Pops conductor Marvin Hamlisch, who died in 2012 after leading the group for 18 years. Stripling said he’ll start his tenure with the PSO by growing its audience and bringing in younger listeners, including outreach to schools where he’ll perform for the students.

“One of the things I like to do with Pops is bring in things you don’t necessarily expect, or aren’t so familiar with,” Stripling said. “It’s a risk for us, but if I can develop trust with an audience, then they’ll come to things.”

The Pops series includes programs of show tunes and popular music outside of the traditional classical repertoire. It’s been a part of the PSO’s mission nearly since its inception, but was formalized under Hamlisch’s tutelage. Pops concerts are a great entry-point for audiences, Stripling said. 

“Pops offers them that opportunity instantly, to see, in a setting that’s not as formal as a traditional symphony concert,” Stripling said. “If we can get people to laugh a little bit, it sort of takes the armor off of them and they come to the music a lot quicker.”

Melia Tourangeau, president and CEO of the PSO, said Stripling was the top choice for the organization. 

“Today we begin a new chapter,” Tourangeau said. “A virtuoso trumpeter, he is a person of the highest-quality musicianship, a skilled and creative conductor, a great showman with infectious joy and a jazz influence that opens new opportunities for the orchestra and the audience.”

WESA receives funding from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.