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5 Pro Tips for the Best Summer Pops Experience

Summer is just around the corner, and that means it's time for one of Charlotte's most anticipated events of the year: the Charlotte Symphony's Summer Pops series! Whether you're buying single tickets or reserving a pod for all four concerts, we've got some pro tips to make you feel like a Summer Pops expert and prepare you for the ultimate experience.

Buy your tickets today, and plan to arrive early

Psst...did you know early bird pricing is available for Summer Pops? Prices increase when you purchase at the gate, so make sure you buy your tickets before June rolls around! The Summer Pops series is a popular event every year, so you won't risk missing out on a great concert that sells out or having to wait in the purchase line. 

With your tickets bought, plan to arrive early to enjoy the evening at the park. Summer Pops brings a large crowd of enthusiastic concert-goers each week, so the best spots on the lawn get snatched up when the gates open at 5 pm. Make sure to arrive early and claim your spot. Then, you'll have plenty of time to enjoy dinner and the preshow at 7! 

Reserve your lawn space for the VIP experience

Want to avoid the rush altogether? Reserve your lawn space and arrive whenever you want! New this year, subscribe to all four Summer Pops concerts and your own pod-style space will be waiting for you each week. A subscriber check-in station will allow you to skip the general admission lines. Available in 2-person, 4-person, 6-person, and 8-person pods, you'll enjoy a premium location front and center on the lawn. Get your family or friends together, because the larger the pod, the less you'll pay per person! You'll want to claim your space early -- pods are selling quickly, and only available until June 2 or until premium spaces sell out. Learn more about pods here.

Dine like a pro

The seasoned Summer Pops fan knows food is an essential part of the Summer Pops experience. At Symphony Park, you've got great options for dinner! Reid's Fine Foods inside SouthPark Mall offers a variety of sandwiches, salads, and gourmet entrees until 8 pm on Sundays, and you'll find street food staples like hot dogs and ice cream at food trucks in the parking lot just outside Symphony Park! Whatever you choose to grab or bring to eat, a blanket or low-backed lawn chairs and a cooler are key to dining comfortably in the park. Beer and wine are allowed, too, so you're welcome to sip your favorite drink as you enjoy music under the stars.

Don't forget water, sunscreen, and bug spray

If you've experienced summer in Charlotte, you know having fun in the sun means planning to bring the trio of essentials: water, sunscreen, and bug spray. The Symphony Park lawn is uncovered and open to the elements, so don't forget to pack your bag and cooler accordingly!

Carpool or use rideshare

Several lots at SouthPark Mall and around Symphony Park offer free parking, but spaces fill up fast. When practical, carpooling and ridesharing are encouraged for easy access to and from the park. So catch a ride with friends or grab a Lyft or Uber right to the check-in tent.

Ready to enjoy Summer Pops? Buy your tickets or pod now (you Summer Pops pro, you!), and for any other lingering questions, check out the Summer Pops FAQs. We can't wait to see you at Symphony Park!
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Posted in Summer. Tagged as community, summer pops.

From Bohème to Broadway: The Stories Behind the Music

Before you head to Symphony Park for our final Summer Pops concert of the season, be sure to brush up on all the drama behind your favorite Opera and Broadway tunes with this handy guide, courtesy of Opera Carolina's Artistic Director, James Meena. 

Introduction to Act III from Wagner's Lohengrin
Lohengrin is a romantic opera in three acts, first performed in 1850. The story is taken from medieval German romances and is part of the Knight of the Swan legend. King Ludwig II of Bavaria named his castle Neuschwanstein Castle after the Swan Knight. It was King Ludwig's patronage that later gave Wagner the means and opportunity to complete, build a theatre for, and stage his epic Ring Cycle. The most popular and recognizable part of Lohengrin is the Bridal Chorus, now famous as "Here Comes the Bride," usually played as a processional at weddings. The orchestral preludes to Acts I and III are frequently performed separately as concert pieces.

Musetta's Waltz from Puccini's La Bohème 
Marcello and his friends are in Paris' famous Latin Quarter on Christmas Eve having supper when Musetta, the famous beauty and Marcello's Ex, enters with her latest sugar-daddy, the doddering Alcindoro. When she sees Marcello, who she still loves, she mercilessly teases him by singing this famous waltz: "Wherever I'm seen, everyone stops and takes me in from head to toe."

Amor ti vieta from Giordano's Fedora
Count Loris Ipanov has killed his wife's lover, who was engaged to Princess Fedora. Fedora does not know the circumstances behind her fiancé's murder, but suspects it was Ipanov, who has been exiled from Russia as a murder suspect. As fate would have it, Fedora and Ipanov meet and he declares his love for her in this passionate aria: "Love forbids you to not love. Your soft hand which rejects me seeks my hand. Your eyes express "I love you", even if your lip says "I won't love you."

Habanera from Bizet's Carmen
The gypsy Carmen has a unique view on men and love: "Love is a rebellious bird that nobody can tame, and you call him in vain if it suits him not to come. Nothing helps, neither threat nor prayer. One man speaks well, the other's quiet; it's the other one that I prefer. He's silent but I like his looks. Love! Love! Love! Love!"

La donna è mobile from Verdi's Rigoletto
The Duke of Mantua has a similar view about women as Carmen, but far more dangerous and abusive. "Woman is fickle. Like a feather in the wind, she changes her voice -- and her mind. Always sweet, a pretty face, in tears or in laughter -- she is always lying. The man who trusts her is always miserable. The man who confides in her -- his heart will break! But one never feels fully happy who does not drink love!"

Sull' aria from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro
The aging Count Almaviva has grown tired of his wife, and he intends to seduce her maid, Susanna. The women set a plan in motion to exchange coats and meet the Count in the garden late at night. The Count will think it is Susanna, when it is his own wife, and everyone will know how unfaithful he can be. To set their trap, the Countess dictates a letter that Susanna will deliver to the Count.

Che gelida manina from Puccini's La Bohème
Rodolfo is a poet. When he meets his neighbor, the seamstress Mimi, it is love at first sight. In this famous aria, he explains who he is, what he does and how he lives. "Who am I? I'm a poet. What do I do? I write. How do I live? I live. In my poverty I am a rich man. Verses of love and of dreams are my riches."

Chi il bel Sogno from Puccini's La Rondine
Magda is an aging beauty. Borne a peasant, she came to Paris at an early age to find her place in the world. Lacking money or skills, she becomes the mistress of the wealthy Rambaldo. At an evening party she is hosting for her patron, the poet Prunier entertains them with the story of Doretta, an aging beauty who never found true love, but he can't quite come up with the ending. Magda supplies it for him: "One day a student kisses her on the lips -- it was a revelation: It was crazy love! Crazy intoxication! Who could the subtle caress of such flaming a kiss ever describe? Ah, my dream -- my life! Who cares about riches if it never flourishes happiness! Golden dream to be able to love like this."

No puede ser from Zorozábal's La Tabernera del Puerto
La Taberna del Puerto is a Zarzuela by Pablo Sorozábal. Premiered in 1936, it tells the story of sailors in a small fishing town in northern Spain. Juan is using the beautiful Marola to manipulate Leandro into a crime. When Leandro learns this, he exclaims: "It can't be. This woman is good, she can't be wicked! In her eyes, like a strange light, I've seen she is unhappy. Those eyes that cry don't know how to lie. Gleaming in her eyes I saw two tears, and my hope is that they will gleam for me. Vivid light of my hopes, be merciful with my love. Because I can't pretend, I can't be silent, I can't live!"

O mio babbino caro from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi
Rinuccio Donati, heir to the wealthiest family fortune in Florence, loves Lauretta Schicchi, the daughter of the clever 'new man' Gianni Schicchi. The young couple want to be married but the Donati family and Gianni Schicchi want nothing to do with it. "What will I do for these people?" Schicchi yells: "Nothing!" How does a sixteen-year-old girl in love reply? "My dear Daddy. If you don't let me marry Rinuccio I will throw myself in the river." Dad's -- What would you do?

La calunnia from Rossini's The Barber of Seville
In this prequal to The Marriage of Figaro, the young Count Almaviva has come to Seville to woo the beautiful Rosina (later the Countess), who is the ward of Dr. Bartolo. Bartolo will do anything to prevent this. His servant, Basilio claims to be a master conniver. He will start a rumor against the Count which will drive him back to Madrid. He explains: "A rumor begins like a gentle breeze. Little by little it grows, hissing, flowing, buzzing from ear to ear until it explodes like a cannon. And the object of the rumor is sent home packing!"

All I Ask of You from Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera
In 1984, Lloyd Webber contacted producer Cameron Mackintosh to propose a new musical. He was aiming for a romantic piece, and suggested Gaston Leroux's book The Phantom of the Opera as a basis. They screened the 1925 Lon Chaney classic and the 1943 Claude Rains motion picture versions, but neither saw any effective way to make the leap from film to stage. Lloyd Webber then found a second-hand copy of the original, long-out-of-print Leroux novel, which supplied the necessary inspiration to develop a musical: "I was actually writing something else at the time, and I realized that the reason I was hung up was because I was trying to write a major romantic story, and I had been trying to do that ever since I started my career. Then with the Phantom, it was there!"

Song to the Moon from Dvořák's Rusalka
The mermaid Rusalka has fallen in love with a human -- the Prince. Now she wants to become human herself and live on land to be with him. Rusalka's father, the Water Sprite, is horrified and tells her that humans are evil and full of sin. When Rusalka insists, claiming they are full of love, he says she will have to get help from the witch Ježibaba. Rusalka calls on the moon to tell the Prince of her love. "Oh, moon, up in the deep sky, Your light sees distant places, You travel 'round the wide world, You look into people's houses. O, moon, stay for a moment, Tell me where is my love! Tell him, silver moon, that I embrace him, that he should for a while remember his dreams of me. Tell him who waits here for him."

Au fond du temple saint from Bizet's The Pearl Fishers
Childhood friends, Nadir and Zurga, are reunited after many years. They recall their friendship that was almost ruined when they both fell in love with a Hindu priestess. They swore never to set aside their friendship for her. "From the holy shrine, like a phantom she rose, a girl that haunts my soul. A hush descended around her. Look -- Behold the goddess. She lifts her veil -- Blessed site. The people fall to the ground at her radiant beauty." When the priestess returns to their village, their friendship is once again tested.

Maria from Bernstein's West Side Story
West Side Story was conceived by Jerome Robbins, with music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and script by Arthur Laurents. Inspired by Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the story explores the rivalry between the Puerto Rican Sharks and the white gang, the Jets. Tony, a former member of the Jets and best friend of the gang's leader, Riff, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks. The dark theme, sophisticated music, extended dance scenes, and focus on social problems marked a turning point in musical theatre.

Nessun dorma! from Puccini's Turandot
Puccini's final opera is set in mythical China. The Princess Turandot has declared that only the nobleman who can answer her three riddles is worthy of her hand. Calaf, the prince of Mongolia has come to Beijing, escaping the coup d'é-tat that has made him an exile. A stranger to everyone in Beijing, he answers Turandot's riddles, but he wants her to marry him out of love. He sets his own riddle: "No one knows my name -- Tell me my name by morning, and you can kill me." The Princess orders that No One May Sleep (Nessun dorma) until his name is revealed.
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Posted in Summer. Tagged as summer pops.

4 insider tips for attending Celebrate America at Symphony Park

If you're headed out to Symphony Park to Celebrate America on July 2, don't miss these top 4 insider tips -- from getting the best spot on the lawn to parking and more. 

1. Arrive and buy your tickets early

We're expecting a large crowd, and the best spots always get snatched up right when the gates open at 5 p.m. If you haven't purchased your tickets in advance, ticket prices will increase at the gate. 

2. Bring water, sunscreen, & bug spray

We'll have vendors selling beverages on-site, but it's going to be very hot and crowded. Wine and beer are allowed, but we ask that you please drink responsibly. You may bring umbrellas, but you will be asked to take them down right before the orchestra starts playing.

3. Carpool or use rideshare to get to the park

Parking is limited to the SouthPark Mall parking lot, which means close parking to the main gate gets claimed very early in the day. For your convenience, we have a guest drop off area right by the main gate. 

4. Bring low-back chairs or blankets

As a courtesy to others, especially those sitting on blankets, please bring low-back chairs, such as one you might bring to the beach. We ask that if you do bring a high-back chair to please sit around the perimeter of the lawn and the park. 

Most importantly, be respectful to others around you, and just have fun! For more information on accessibility, prohibited items, and more, visit our FAQ page.
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Posted in Summer. Tagged as summer pops.

Summer Pops...Like a Pro

Since moving to Charlotte nearly five years ago, I've discovered plenty of summer activities worth checking out. But though my list of "must attend" events is long, the Charlotte Symphony's Summer Pops performances remain at the top. If you're new to the experience, here are a few of my tips for making the most of it.

Schedule out-of-town visits accordingly

When my best friend from high school came to check out Charlotte for the first time, a Summer Pops show was definitely on the itinerary for her trip. It was the perfect way to break up a weekend that included plenty of eating, brewery hopping, and pool time. If you've got friends and family members who are eyeing a trip to the Queen City, plan accordingly.

Bring the whole family

The Summer Pops experience is perfect for everyone in your family, because it doesn't matter how much or how little you know about the symphony. You're hearing familiar music (selections this year will be from E.T., Star Wars, Wicked, and The Sound of Music, just to name a few) in a relaxed, comfortable setting. Kids will love running around outside at the park before the show starts, and the experience feels approachable for attendees of all experience levels.


Get there early to snag the ideal spot

Needless to say, the Summer Pops shows are popular. If you want a great sightline, get to Symphony Park early - gates open at 5 p.m., prelude acts are at 7 p.m. - so you have time to set up shop and pick the perfect spot. Bring your favorite blanket or a low-backed chair so you stay comfortable throughout the evening without blocking others' views.

Pack accordingly

Unlike other concert experiences where you're spending money on food and drinks in addition to the price of a ticket, at Summer Pops you can bring your own treats to munch on as you enjoy the show. Personally, I'd recommend something light, such as cheese and fruit. Don't forget that you can bring wine and beer too (no liquor)! Another favorite option of mine is to pop over and enjoy the patio at Reid's Fine Foods before heading to the performance. Reid's is also on site at the park, so you can purchase charcuterie, etc. without walking too far, if you didn't pack your own.


Choose the Premium Seating Club for shade and ease

When you want the easiest Summer Pops experience from start to finish, the Premium Seating Club is your best bet. A little pricier, but that's because your ticket includes VIP parking, seating under a tent, and a boxed picnic from Reid's. It's probably the most relaxing way to experience the show, if you have it in your budget.

Beat the heat

In case you haven't noticed, Charlotte summers are hot, to say the least. But if you want to enjoy the music of the Charlotte Symphony without the added dose of humidity, the Summer Pops series has an indoor experience, too! On June 22, a DeLorean will be riding down Tryon Street for Back to the Future In Concert at Belk Theater. I repeat, a DeLorean. Soak up both the music and the sweet, sweet air conditioning.

Maximize your flexibility

If you love the option of buying tickets at the gate but also are trying to be kind to your wallet, the GoPass is your best bet. Select the shows that appeal most to you, and save 25 percent versus if you bought tickets for individual shows.

Use your social media skills to your advantage

If you're social media savvy, you can use your love of hashtags and filters to your advantage! When you snap a great shot during a Summer Pops show, post it to your favorite social media channel and you may win a pair of tickets to an upcoming performance. Hashtag is #SummerPops2018

Also, before you go, be sure to consult these handy Summer Pops FAQs to find answers to all your park questions.

Which Summer Pops shows are you planning to check out this year? If you see me at a performance, make sure to say hi!
By Lauren Levine, guest blogger

Lauren Levine is a Charlotte-based freelance writer and co-host of The Margarita Confessionals podcast. Follow her on Twitter at @lifewithlauren1. 
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Posted in Summer. Tagged as summer pops.

5 Questions With...Albert-George Schram

This Sunday, we kick off our 2016 Summer Pops series. As preparations mount, we sat down with Conductor Albert-George Schram (he goes by George!) to ask him a few questions about his Summer Pops experience, from start to finish.

So, tell us about how you program a Summer Pops concert?
It begins with a simple question: How can we continue to have fun? It's an organic process that starts with finding the right theme, and then plugging music into that. Sometimes I find music that I want to play and then cultivate a theme from that, but mostly it's the other way around. It starts with an idea or concept, and then it evolves, and we find the right balance of variety for our audience.

This year, there was a suggestion to play music about a lot of different places, countries, or cities. All I had to do from there was find a few more pieces of wonderful music that had been written with places in mind - from Baghdad to Chicago, New York to Paris. That idea became Oh, the Places You'll Go, which we'll present on June 26.

Do you have a favorite concert on the 2016 line up?
If I'm not excited about it, I don't do it. I love all of the shows we've programmed, and they'll all be special.

I'm excited about Symphony Swings because of all the big band and swing music we'll get to perform. Symphony orchestras aren't big bands, so it's exciting to find a moment to rock the house down, and it's a lot of fun for our musicians especially the brass section.

And I'm always particularly proud of and excited about the Father's Day celebration. We have a gloriously testosterone-ridden evening this year with music from some of our favorite movies. We'll celebrate all the manliness that we can muster with lots of Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Indiana Jones.

Tell us about your Summer Pops rituals. What do you do to prepare for and/or unwind from the concert?
Right before the concert, I tend to keep a low profile. I mostly prefer being alone so I can get in the right mindset. I never eat before a gig because I get too focused and it gets in the way of my concentration.

When we've wrapped up the performance, I'm always wet with sweat from the heat and the movement during the performance, so I definitely need to shower. Then, I change clothes and by that point, I need to eat and I do so with great joy and gusto! Typically, several members of the Symphony staff join me and we get a chance to unwind from the day and enjoy each other's company.

What is your favorite thing about Summer Pops?
I like how deeply we reach into the community. It's a different event all together, and there are people who come out to Summer Pops who don't come to any other concert throughout the year. To be able to connect with those people is a particular treat.

It's a wonderful, family-friendly tradition for the city and I so relish the opportunity to strut the stuff of the Symphony for the faithful audience who is there every year, and the newbies who are joining us for maybe the very first time. It's a mighty fine gang and I'm pleased to be a part of it.

How does the Summer Pops atmosphere differ from a regular Pops show?
It's a bit more relaxed and laid back; we can simply allow ourselves to have a bit more fun. It's typically a bit more raucous, too even more so than a Pops show!

It's also accessible to a wide audience, and it's important to me that we have that. The kids don't have to be absolutely quiet and stay in one seat. People can enjoy time with their friends and family, and bring something to eat and drink and I like all of those things. We just want to play good music that people enjoy. What more could we as an orchestra want?

Posted in Summer. Tagged as conductors, guest artists, interview, summer pops.

Albert-George Schram's Two Lives

Albert-George Schram is known at the Charlotte Symphony as the joyful white-haired conductor that makes seeing the orchestra play Pops concerts, ranging from Christmas music and Broadway to Motown, exciting. Elsewhere around the country, he's known for conducting Classical music. In a recent article in The Charlotte Observer, Larry Toppman covers this in "Charlotte Symphony's Albert-George Schram leads two lives."

Within the article, we learn 5 interesting facts about George:

1. He got bad early reviews from his piano teacher: "As a boy, my first instrument was tuba. I played cornet, euphonium, other wind instruments. And I'd ride my bike up to an old lady's house and sit among these big dark curtains to study piano. She told my father, 'You are really wasting your time.' "

2. He was a 20-year-old 12th-grader in Canada: "I was living in Alberta, and they wouldn't accept my Dutch high school degree. So I finished school while working on a farm with 12,000 chickens, collecting eggs and hammering fence posts into the ground."

3. After getting a bachelor's in music from the University of Calgary, he became music director of Stratusfaction, a 25-piece Canadian jazz ensemble that peaked with gigs in Reno, Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas. He played trombone and trumpet, sang, arranged and wrote musical charts.

4. Languages come quickly to him. He improved his English after settling in Canada by watching TV. His favorite program: "Stampede Wrestling," where Archie "The Stomper" Gouldie battled Abdullah the Butcher. Much later, he spent a month at a Spanish-language institute, so he could conduct in Bolivia and Argentina.

5. He watches the Grammy Awards. "I do it because I want to know what's happening now," he said. "If I don't think any of the music played today is good music, and millions of people take to it, then I have to start opening my ears wider." Read more

Posted in Pops. Tagged as conductors, guest artists, Pops, summer pops.

2012 – A Year in Review

"The Symphony is a family, and that family embraces the audience--the people who work for the symphony, the volunteers, everyone who comes to concerts, everyone who listens on radio--it's a community; it's a family." - Christopher Warren-Green

2012 was a good year for the Charlotte Symphony family. We said good-bye to some individuals but welcomed many more new additions to our family. Here's twelve stories that highlight the organization's happenings in 2012. 

12. First Annual Ulysses Festival

The CSO along with  N.C. Dance Theatre, Opera Carolina and other regional cultural partners participated in a month-long celebration of the arts community. The theme for the inaugural festival was The Music of Tchaikovsky.
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11. Entire Artistic 'Family' Takes the Stage

For the first time in Charlotte Symphony history, members of the Charlotte Symphony Youth Orchestra (CSYO) and Junior Youth Orchestra (JYO), the Winterfield Elementary Youth Orchestra, the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte, and Charlotte Symphony musicians performed together on the Belk Theater stage. 
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10. Violins of Hope

Charlotte had the great honor of hosting the North American premiere of this exhibit which restores the memory of the nameless millions, including the musicians and artists who were lost in the Holocaust. Numerous events took place throughout the city and culminated with the performance,  Triumph of Hope: Violins of Hope with the Charlotte Symphony
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9. 11th Summer Pops at Symphony Park

The CSO continued its tradition of delighting audiences with special outdoor performances at the beautiful Symphony Park including an Independence Day concert and fireworks show. 
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8. Instruments for Kids Program Launch

Donated instruments are used in the symphony's extensive education and community programs, creating a lending library of musical instruments for students who don't own their own.
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7. Live Image Magnification 

An All-Tchaikovsky program gave audiences the chance to view the orchestra in a brand new way via video cameras and a large screen.  Patrons also voted by text message for the encore piece. 
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6. Martin Heads to Dallas and Donor Steps In

After four great years, Jonathan Martin left Charlotte to become president and chief executive of the Dallas Symphony.  Shortly after this announcement an anonymous donor came forth to offer financial assistance in the search for a new executive director. 
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5. Stickler named Interim Director 

Former Bank of America executive Robert Stickler is our interim executive director as the orchestra seeks a new leader. Stickler has served on the orchestra's board of directors since 2008 and is a former president of the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte. 
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4. Wells Fargo Challenge Grant

The bank offered assistance to the organization by matching up to $100,000 of contributions to the orchestra's general operations and $100,000 of gifts to CSO programs on
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3. World Premiere of Weinstein Digital Animation

A partnership between the CSO, the Knight Foundation and Mint Museum of Charlotte brought Matthew Weinstein's work to the city. Audiences experienced brilliant animation in sync with the hypnotic music of Ravel's Bolero. 
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2. Celebrating Eighty-One Years of Music

The 81st season opened in September with "The Music of Billy Joel" in the Pops series and and an All-Beethoven program in the Classics series. 
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1. Christopher Warren-Green Renews Contract

Our Music Director Christopher Warren-Green renewed his contract through the 2015-2016 season. His vision for the future of the organization includes artistic excellence, increased partnerships with other organizations, innovation through new programs and service to the community. 
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We look forward to what 2013 will bring. We thank you so much for being part of our Symphony Family!
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Tagged as Classical, CSO Musicians, CSYO, Education, Musicians, summer pops, symphony park.