The Transylvania Times -

Fellenbaum Excited About March POPS Concert


February 28, 2019

Courtesy Photo

James Fellenbaum

When James Fellenbaum, artistic director and conductor of the Brevard Philharmonic, stepped onto the Porter Center stage two Thursday mornings ago, he faced an audience of chattering fifth graders from all over the county...most of whom had never before heard a live orchestra. Stepping forward to the mic, he clapped once. The audience went silent. Suddenly, the kids sent back a single, resounding, collective clap. From that moment Fellenbaum had them in the palm of his hand.

"It is my desire and mission to help kids discover that music...all music worth making a part of your life. Something you cannot do without," Fellenbaum said.

If the Philharmonic's Music in the Schools concert last week is any measure of that mission, it was a huge success. On Sunday, March 10, at 3 p.m. in the Porter Center at Brevard College, Fellenbaum will deliver a program of pieces that are indeed a part of our lives. A program designed to stir the American soul. The annual POPS concert will be "An American Celebration" spanning the period of time from pioneer days to the present.

"There are a lot of great things about our country and about our country's music," said Fellenbaum. "When I sat down to program this POPS concert, the music seemed to begin to group itself into specific themes, starting with the old West and the pioneers, with a couple of selections focusing on our own Appalachian area. There is a Shaker tune represented, 'Simple Gifts,' that everyone will recognize. It was first written in the 1800s and later adapted and arranged by Aaron Copland."

There is a segment spotlighting our armed forces and its rich history.

"You cannot have a POPS concert without a couple of marches," said Fellenbaum.

The American Musical Theatre is represented by Bernstein and Richard Rogers, as is big band jazz with a tribute to Duke Ellington.

Fellenbaum observed, "Some of you may ask, 'What is the Russian, Tchaikovsky doing in this American mix?' but the '1812 Overture,' a great classical piece, has been a cornerstone of our 4th of July celebrations forever."

Fellenbaum, who is also the resident conductor of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, is a frequent conductor on the Knoxville POPS Series and has collaborated with Kenny G, Chris Botti and Blood, Sweat and Tears. His philosophy that any and all music that can bring us joy and leave us demanding more is put into play in this setting.

"It's an especially challenging experience when, for instance, the nine members of Blood, Sweat and Tears have to fit in on stage with a symphony orchestra. Not their normal environment. We all have to be great collaborators. If we're not, no one sounds good. But the end result is very special," Fellenbaum said.

Fellenbaum doesn't worry about the future of serious music.

"We need to underscore the value of any music in our society. Often music is seen as extracurricular when it's vital and critical to life. My own particular mission is to entertain, fulfill people's desires and needs and to educate. This is why we do music. Any and all kinds of music, he said. "Start them young loving it. Make it a part of their life so they realize they cannot do without it. And as they grow up, they, in turn, will nurture the continuation of the joy of music. That joy will build the audiences of tomorrow."

POPS "An American Celebration" on March 10 won't begin with a single clap, but Fellenbaum will be sure to have the audience in the palm of his hand.

All concertgoers are invited to a pre-concert talk by Fellenbaum at 2 p.m. at the Porter Center.

The mission of the Brevard Philharmonic is to inspire, educate and enrich audiences through exceptional, professional musical performances and community outreach.

Tickets are on sale at $25 to $35 per concert. Call (828) 884-4221 or use our Pick Your Seat option at


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