Principal Pops Conductor, Pasadena POPS
Michael Feinstein has built a dazzling career over the last three decades bringing the music of the Great American songbook to the world. From recordings that have earned him five Grammy Award nominations to his Emmy nominated PBS-TV specials, his acclaimed NPR series and concerts spanning the globe – in addition to his appearances at iconic venues such as The White House, Buckingham Palace, Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall and Sydney Opera House – his work as an educator and archivist define Feinstein as one of the most important musical forces of our time.
In 2007, he founded the Great American Songbook Foundation, dedicated to celebrating the art form and preserving it through educational programs, Master Classes, and the annual High School Songbook Academy.
This summer intensive open to students from across the country has produced graduates who have gone on to record acclaimed albums and appear on television programs such as NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” Michael serves on the Library of Congress’ National Recording Preservation Board, an organization dedicated to ensuring the survival, conservation and increased public availability of America’s sound recording heritage.
The most recent album from his multi-platinum recording career is A Michael Feinstein Christmas from Concord Records. The CD features Grammy Award -winning jazz pianist Alan Broadbent (Paul McCartney, Diana Krall, Natalie Cole). Feinstein earned his fifth Grammy Award nomination in 2009 for The Sinatra Project, his CD celebrating the music of “Ol’ Blue Eyes.” The Sinatra Project, Volume II: The Good Life was released in 2011. He released the CDs The Power Of Two – collaborating with “Glee” and “30 Rock” star Cheyenne Jackson – and Cheek To Cheek, recorded with Broadway legend Barbara Cook. For Feinstein’s CD We Dreamed These Days, he co-wrote the title song with Dr. Maya Angelou.
His Emmy Award-nominated TV special Michael Feinstein – The Sinatra Legacy, which was taped live at the Palladium in Carmel, IN, aired across the country in 2011. The PBS series “Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook,” the recipient of the ASCAP Deems-Taylor Television Broadcast Award, was broadcast for three seasons and is available on DVD. His most recent primetime PBS-TV Special, “New Year’s Eve at The Rainbow Room” – written and directed by “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry – aired in 2014. For his nationally syndicated public radio program “Song Travels,” Michael interviews and performs alongside of music luminaries such as Bette Midler, Neil Sedaka, Liza Minnelli, Rickie Lee Jones, David Hyde Pierce and more.
Feinstein was named Principal Pops Conductor for the Pasadena Symphony in 2012 and made his conducting debut in June 2013 to celebrated critical acclaim. Under Feinstein’s leadership, the Pasadena Pops has quickly become a premier orchestral presenter of the Great American Songbook with definitive performances of rare orchestrations and classic arrangements. He launched an additional Pops series at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in Palm Beach, Florida in 2014.
Michael’s book The Gershwins and Me – the Los Angeles Times best-seller from Simon & Schuster – features a new CD of Gershwin standards performed with Cyrus Chestnut at the piano.
Feinstein serves as Artistic Director of the Palladium Center for the Performing Arts, a $170 million, three-theatre venue in Carmel, Indiana, which opened in January 2011. The theater is home to diverse live programming and a museum for his rare memorabilia and manuscripts. Since 1999, he has served as Artistic Director for Carnegie Hall’s “Standard Time with Michael Feinstein” in conjunction with ASCAP. In 2010 he became the director of the Jazz and Popular Song Series at New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Feinstein’s at the Nikko, Michael’s nightclub at San Francisco’s Nikko Hotel, has presented the top talents of pop and jazz since 2013. He debuted at Feinstein’s/54 Below, his new club in New York, late in 2015. His first venue in New York, Feinstein’s at the Regency, featured major entertainers such as Rosemary Clooney, Glen Campbell, Barbara Cook, Diahann Carroll, Jane Krakowski, Lea Michele, Cyndi Lauper, Jason Mraz and Alan Cumming from 1999 to 2012.
He has designed a new piano for Steinway called “The First Ladies,” inspired by the White House piano and signed by several former First Ladies. It was first played to commemorate the Ronald Regan centennial on February 6, 2011.
In 2013 Michael released Change Of Heart: The Songs of Andre Previn in collaboration with four time Oscar and eleven time Grammy Award-winning composer-conductor-pianist Andre Previn. The album celebrates Previn’s pop songs and motion picture classics. Earlier album highlights include Hopeless Romantics, a songbook of classics by Michael’s late friend Harry Warren, recording with legendary jazz pianist George Shearing. His album with songwriting icon Jimmy Webb, Only One Life – The Songs of Jimmy Webb, was named one of “10 Best CDs of the Year” by USA Today.
Feinstein received his fourth Grammy nomination for Michael Feinstein with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, his first recording with a symphony orchestra. The year before, Rhino/Elektra Music released The Michael Feinstein Anthology, a two-disc compilation spanning 1987 to 1996 and featuring old favorites and previously-unreleased tracks.
Michael was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he started playing piano by ear as a 5-year-old. After graduating from high school, he moved to Los Angeles when he was 20. The widow of legendary concert pianist-actor Oscar Levant introduced him to Ira Gershwin in July 1977. Feinstein became Gershwin’s assistant for six years, which earned him access to numerous unpublished Gershwin songs, many of which he has since performed and recorded.
Gershwin’s influence provided a solid base upon which Feinstein evolved into a captivating performer, composer and arranger of his own original music. He also has become an unparalleled interpreter of music legends such as Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer, Duke Ellington and Harry Warren. Feinstein has received three honorary doctorates.
Through his live performances, recordings, film and television appearances, and his songwriting (in collaboration with Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Lindy Robbins, Bob Merrill and Marshall Barer), Feinstein is an all-star force in American music.
For more information, please visit www.MichaelFeinstein.com.
CEO, Pasadena Symphony Association
Lora Unger has served as Pasadena Symphony and POPS CEO since 2014. She is deeply passionate about stewarding the orchestra’s role as a connecting force for good in the community and providing our youth with the far-reaching benefits of music education. Under her leadership the orchestra has flourished both artistically and financially, and stands today as the community’s preeminent leader for live musical events that combine innovation and entertainment experiences for more than 50,000 audiences annually.
Unger holds degrees in Music and Business from the University of Louisville, and graduate degrees in Arts Administration from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and College of Business. She completed her postgraduate work as a Fellow with the League of American Orchestras and was recognized as an Emerging Arts Leader by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. Lora has worked with the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Aspen Music Festival, and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, as well as the Cincinnati, Jacksonville, New Jersey and San Francisco Symphony Orchestras. She believes in the importance of being of service to the community and serves on the Board of Directors of Friends of Foothill Family Services, the Gooden School and is a member of the San Marino Junior Alliance.
Robert Michero was born and raised in South Pasadena, California and has been a longtime Pasadena community volunteer. From an early age, Robert took to music after sharing a love for the arts with his mother. In his adolescence, Bob continued exploring his passion for music, while also nurturing a love for sports.
Robert attended California State University of Los Angeles, University of Arizona, and graduated from UCLA. Early in his career, Robert was Vice
President General Manager-Wine Division of Young’s Market Company in Los Angeles. In 1983, he discovered a desire to have his own business
and created Contemporary Marketing Ltd.—a sales, marketing, and vintner company specializing in the Wine and Spirits Industry.
Robert is currently Vice President of Riboli Family of San Antonio Winery of Los Angeles. He previously served as Managing Director of San Antonio Winery- Maddalena Brands and as Vice President-Partner of Dreyfus, Ashby & Company, a national wine and spirits importer and marketing company based in
New York, NY.
Robert currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Pasadena Symphony Association and for the last ten years has held the position of Vice President of Finance & Treasurer. Robert has also been the Wine Chair of the Huntington Hospital-Parkway Grill “Fall Food and Wine Festival” for the past 36 years. Bob is a lifelong resident of Pasadena, residing there with his wife of 22 years, Kim, and their daughter, Darcy.
Resident Pops Conductor, Larry Blank is one of the most prolific and sought after composers, conductors, and orchestrators in the entertainment business today. His work has been presented all over the world, including some of Broadway’s most successful musicals, Carnegie Hall, and top television and film projects.
He was the Music Director/Conductor and/or vocal arranger for many shows on Broadway and in Los Angeles including They’re Playing Our Song, Evita, Sugar Babies, La Cage Aux Folles, Phantom Of The Opera, Onward Victoria, Copperfield, Colette, A Chorus Line and A Little Night Music. He has been nominated three times for both the Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award for his orchestrations in The Drowsy Chaperone, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas and with Marc Shaiman for Catch Me If You Can. Larry received a Drama Desk Nomination for orchestrations for A Christmas Story
Larry contributed to the orchestrations for both the stage and film production of The Producers, the film Chicago and is a regular conductor and arranger for BBC RADIO 2 Friday Night Is Music Night in the UK. Larry is also the Music Supervisor and Orchestrator (along with Mark Cumberland) for the Olivier Awards in London.
Blank has worked with top talent from varied fields of the entertainment world, notably as personal conductor to Michael Crawford. He has also worked with Michael Feinstein, Marvin Hamlisch, Bernadette Peters, Kelsey Grammar, Christine Baranski, Roberta Flack, Pete Fountain, Peabo Bryson, Sally Kellerman, Nancy Dussault, Marc Shaiman, Jerry Herman, Ann- Margaret, Davis Gaines, Bette Midler, George Benson, Placido Domingo, Randy Newman, Trisha Yearwood, Tom Scott, Quincy Jones, Michael Bolton, John Raitt and Diana Rigg.
Blank’s background includes orchestrating and arranging songs for South Park and was Music Supervisor and Orchestrator for Jerry Herman’s movie, Mrs. Santa Claus starring Angela Lansbury and Charles Durning. Some of the films he lent his talent to include The Kid, Kiss The Girls, The American President, Forget Paris, City Slickers II, The Net, That¹s Entertainment III, North, I¹d Do Anything, and Stuart Saves His Family. Blank’s music can be heard on the animated feature films, Cats Don’t Dance and All Dogs Go To Heaven as well as the 101 Dalmations Christmas Special.
Mr. Blank’s television work includes orchestrating and composing music for several of the Grammy Awards and Academy Award shows as well as numerous television movies and shows.
Mr. Blank has guest conducted most of the orchestras throughout the world, including The San Francisco Symphony, The New York Philharmonic, Western Australia Symphony Orchestra, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, Palm Beach Pops, Auckland Symphony, The National Symphony Orchestra, The Boston Pops, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Calgary Symphony, New Orleans Symphony and Toronto.
Assistant Conductor, Pasadena Symphony
Chris Kim is the Choi Family Endowed Director of Instrumental Activities and conductor of the Occidental Symphony Orchestra at Occidental College in Los Angeles.
The League of American Orchestras/ASCAP has recognized his advocacy of contemporary music by awarding him the Adventurous Programming Award six times between 2008-2014. The American Prize has recognized his work from 2014-2018 in multiple categories. He has premiered over 250 new works for orchestra. He has sought to program worthy, unknown repertoire with orchestras. In the 2016-2017 season, all concerts by the Cornell Symphony Orchestra featured works by women composers both present and past; Kristin Kuster, Gabriela Lena Frank, Jacqueline Jeeyoung Kim, Tonia Ko, Joan Tower, and Lili Boulanger. During the 2017-2018 season, Jazz-influenced works permeated the repertoire of the Cornell Symphony Orchestra; Duke Ellington, Gunther Schuller, Charlie Parker, and Wynton Marsalis. At Cornell University he directed the Chamber Orchestra and the Symphony Orchestra. The Cornell Chamber Orchestra was a featured ensemble at the College Orchestra Directors Association’s National Conference in 2012. The Cornell Orchestras have formed multiple collaborative relationships with the Royal Academy of Music in Dublin, Ireland, Conservatorio de Puerto Rico in San Juan, PR, and Sinfónica del Neuquén in Argentina, and have taken multiple visits to these sister cities. In January of 2019, Cornell Orchestras embarked on a tour to Taiwan to collaborate with the Taipei Symphony Orchestra as well as Engagement activities with five different student orchestras across the city of Taipei. Cornell Orchestra and Ithaca College Orchestras have jointly presented the Ithaca International Conducting Masterclasses for over a decade bringing conducting pedagogues such as Carl St. Clair, Larry Rachleff, and David Effron, Alexander Polischuk, and Gustav Meier to work with young conductors.
He has led opera productions at Ewha Woman’s University in South Korea in the production of Magic Flute as well as having been the music director of the Comic Opera Guild in Ann Arbor, MI where he conducted Franz Lehar’s Merry Widow, Mozart’s Magic Flute as well as Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera. He has appeared with orchestras in the US and abroad, including ensembles such as the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Delta Festival Ballet, Symphoria, and Divertimento Ensemble of Milan, Italy. He has appeared in music festivals such as Kinhaven Music Center, Skaneateles Music Festival, and International Bartók Festival in Szombathely, Hungary. Each summer he is a part of the faculty at Cortona sessions for new music where he teaches conducting and helps premiere new works by composers from around the world.