The Britt Festival Orchestra’s 2019 summer season, anchoring Oregon’s Britt Music and Arts Festival with three weeks of exhilarating open-air programming in the scenic Rogue Valley, opens July 26. Under the galvanizing leadership of Music Director Teddy Abrams, the 2019 season features a compelling combination of beloved staples of the repertoire and cutting-edge, 21st-century compositions.
As a prelude to his July 28 performance with Oliver Herbert, Abrams joined young rising-star cellist as well as pianist Beatrice Rana and violinist Stefan Jackiw for an event at WQXR’s Greene Space in Manhattan on June 3.
The youngest conductor of a major orchestra in the United States at 32, Abrams’s achievements relative to his youth are an initial focus of the story, which notes that “in Louisville, if it’s possible for a classical musician, he’s a rock star.” But even more remarkable is the infectious enthusiasm he has brought to the orchestra that in turn has increased ticket sales by 30% in the four years of his tenure, as well as a programming philosophy that embraces constant cross-fertilization between genres and engages with the entire Louisville community.
In our inaugural Classical Post Awards, we named Louisville Orchestra the Most Innovative Presenter: Orchestra.
Abrams explains in the segment: “A music director should, if they're going to be the music director of X orchestra, live in X, and care about the people of X, and become one of them. I often say it's just like a politician; if you want to get elected, you’d better be out on the streets meeting people. And it's exactly the same thing here. What I try to do is go meet the actual people that we’re going to make music for.”
Teddy Abrams has been Music Director of the Britt Orchestra since 2014, and recently extended his contract with the ensemble through 2023. His spirit of innovation and community engagement is everywhere evident, whether it be in a pub crawl with the orchestra playing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in bars throughout the region, in programs that address critical local issues like homelessness, or through outreach activities in local high schools.
In the summer of 2016 he led the orchestra in the world-premiere performance of a Britt Music and Arts Festival commission to mark the centennial of America’s National Park Service: composer and Bang on a Can co-founder Michael Gordon’s Natural History. The performance took place at Oregon’s breathtaking Crater Lake, a site sacred to the local Klamath Tribes, that was the inspiration for Gordon’s work; it not only featured the 40 members of the orchestra, a 70-voice choir, and 30 brass players and percussionists, but also a Klamath family drum group known as the Steiger Butte Singers, with several members of the Klamath Tribal Council in attendance. This once-in-a-lifetime event was captured on disc by Cantaloupe Music and subsequently chronicled in the Emmy-nominated documentary Symphony for Nature: The Britt Orchestra at Crater Lake, directed by Anne Flatté and co-produced by Owsley Brown Presents and the Britt Music and Arts Festival.
Highlights of the season of the Britt Festival include a new Britt co-commission from Christopher Cerrone called Meander, Spiral, Explode; the conducting debut of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw, who will be in residence this season as the Composer/Conductor Fellow; solo concertos showcasing violinist Augustin Hadelich, cellist Oliver Herbert, and pianist George Li; cornerstones of the orchestral literature from Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy, and Sibelius; and a new score for Sergei Eisenstein’s Soviet silent film classic Battleship Potemkin, drawing from some of the greatest moments in classical music.
For more information and tickets, visit Britt Festival Orchestra’s website.
About Teddy Abrams
An unusually versatile musician, Teddy Abrams is the widely-acclaimed Music Director of the Louisville Orchestra and Music Director and Conductor of the Britt Orchestra, as well as an established pianist, clarinetist, and composer. A tireless advocate for the power of music, Abrams continues to foster interdisciplinary collaboration with organizations including the Louisville Ballet, the Center for Interfaith Relations, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Speed Art Museum, and the Folger Shakespeare Library.
Teddy’s 2017-18 season included debuts with the Los Angeles, Malaysian, and Rhode Island Philharmonics; the Milwaukee, Fort Worth, Princeton, and Omaha Symphonies; and The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Recent guest conducting highlights include engagements with the San Francisco, Houston, Vancouver, Colorado, and Phoenix Symphonies; Florida Orchestra; the Louisiana and New Mexico Philharmonics; and at the Kennedy Center. He has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with the Indianapolis Symphony, and recently conducted them with Time for Three for a special recorded for PBS. He served as Assistant Conductor of the Detroit Symphony from 2012-2014.
From 2008 to 2011, Abrams was the Conducting Fellow and Assistant Conductor of the New World Symphony (NWS) and conducted many performances, including subscription concerts and numerous other full and chamber orchestra events. Abrams has conducted the NWS in Miami Beach, Washington, D.C. and at Carnegie Hall, and recently returned to conduct the NWS on subscription with Joshua Bell as soloist.
An accomplished pianist and clarinetist, Abrams has appeared as a soloist with a number of orchestras—including play-conducting the Ravel Piano Concerto with the Jacksonville Symphony in Fall 2013—and has performed chamber music with the St. Petersburg String Quartet, Menahem Pressler, Gilbert Kalish, Time for Three, and John Adams, in addition to annual appearances at the Olympic Music Festival. Dedicated to exploring new and engaging ways to communicate with a diverse range of audiences, Abrams co-founded the Sixth Floor Trio in 2008. Together, they founded and direct GardenMusic, the music festival of the world-renowned Fairchild Tropical Garden in Miami; they continue to tour regularly throughout the U.S.
Abrams studied conducting with Michael Tilson Thomas, Otto-Werner Mueller and Ford Lallerstedt at the Curtis Institute of Music, and with David Zinman at the Aspen Music Festival; he was the youngest conducting student ever accepted at both institutions. Abrams is also an award-winning composer and a passionate educator—he has taught at numerous schools throughout the United States. His 2009 Education Concerts with the New World Symphony (featuring the world premiere of one of Abrams’ own orchestral works) were webcast to hundreds of schools throughout South Florida.
Abrams performed as a keyboardist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, won the 2007 Aspen Composition Contest, and was the Assistant Conductor of the YouTube Symphony at Carnegie Hall in 2009. He has held residencies at the La Mortella music festival in Ischia, Italy and at the American Academy in Berlin. Teddy was a proud member of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra for seven seasons, and graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with a Bachelor of Music, having studied piano with Paul Hersh.
About the Britt Orchestra and Britt Music & Arts Festival
Founded in 1963, the Britt Orchestra brings together 90 professional musicians from across the United States for three weeks of open-air performances each summer. Forming the heart of the annual Britt Music & Arts Festival, the Britt Orchestra Season takes place in Jacksonville, Oregon, less than half an hour’s drive from the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
The festival was the brainchild of Portland conductor John Trudeau and musician Sam McKinney, who came to southern Oregon in search of the perfect location. When they discovered the superb natural acoustics and stunning views of Britt Park – the former hillside estate of Jacksonville pioneer Peter Britt, a Swiss-born photographer who became one of Oregon’s most celebrated citizens – they knew that they had found it. In 1963, with a small chamber orchestra on a makeshift stage, the first summer outdoor music festival in the Pacific Northwest was born.
Since its grassroots beginnings, the non-profit organization has grown from a two-week chamber festival to a multi-disciplinary summer-long concert series with year-round education and engagement programs. Constructed 40 years ago, the 2,200-capacity Britt Pavilion enables Britt to present world-class artists while maintaining the intimacy for which it is known.