One-of-a-kind: The Louisville Orchestra and Teddy Abrams

One-of-a-kind: The Louisville Orchestra and Teddy Abrams
Conductor Teddy Abrams
Conductor Teddy Abrams and Louisville Orchestra (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Conductor Teddy Abrams and Louisville Orchestra (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The city of Louisville is known as the home of the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and certainly basketball but we also can't forget to put the Louisville Orchestra on that list.

The 2018-2019 season will be the fifth under the direction of Conductor Teddy Abrams; he too is one of the orchestra's first.

Abrams is the youngest music director of a major American orchestra. He was 27-years-old when he was hired to lead the orchestra in 2014.

"I remember the first time I came to Louisville I knew absolutely nothing about the city but what I read," Abrams said with a big grin. "I was coming to the Kentucky orchestra in a trial. It was like a blind date really cause I'd never been to the town. I'd never worked with the orchestra."

What started as a blind date for Abrams and the Louisville Orchestra has turned into a very successful relationship. He now knows the Louisville Orchestra very well and is an integral part of creating its history.

Abrams boasted with pride, "It's one of the most important orchestras in America."

In 1945, the Louisville Orchestra became the first southern orchestra to engage an African-American conductor for a concert when Edward Lee was invited to lead.

To focus the eyes and ears of the world on Louisville, the orchestra created The Commissioning Project in 1947 -- a policy of newly commissioned works.

Abrams explained the city proclaimed, "We will commission some of the most brilliant living composers and we will do it decade after decade after decade and that's exactly what they did."

In 1955, the Louisville Orchestra was the first U.S. orchestra to own a record label and distribute records internationally.

"We started a record label called First Edition Records," Abrams explained.

This was the chance of a lifetime for composers around the world.

"They commissioned them, they premiered them, they recorded them," Abrams stated.

Many of the albums can still be found today in record stores around the city of Louisville and across the nation. Underground Records in the Highlands carries many vintage records including a few from the Louisville Orchestra.

Abrams has now revived the composition commissioning program. In 2017, the orchestra released its first commercial recording titled "All In," which spent several weeks at the top of the Traditional Classical Billboard Chart.

Many have hailed Abrams as one of the most innovative and unusually versatile musicians, conductors, and composers.

"It's not just the concerts you see," Abrams said with great passion. "It's education work in the schools. It's bringing the schools to us. We go out to anything from a homeless shelter to rehab centers to anyplace that could use music and we put musicians there."

Under the leadership of Teddy Abrams, the Louisville Orchestra strives to connect with people of all ages and from all parts of our community.

"The whole point of music is it's our real universal language," Abrams enthusiastically shared. "That's why we've done everything from jazz to rap to bluegrass to a lot of composers associated with Kentucky."

On Friday, May 11 and Saturday, May 12, Teddy Abrams and the Louisville Orchestra close the 2017-18 season with two blockbuster pieces of music -Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring and Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Also Sprach Zarathustra) by Richard Strauss.

"To celebrate the end of the season we will have two of the biggest pieces in music," Abrams said with the biggest grin ever. "It's like surf and turf. You get everything!"

The first half of the program will be Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Also Sprach Zarathustra) by Strauss. Wait, before you proclaim you know nothing about it.   Abrams wants you to know it's a song with an emotional punch that most of us have heard before. The first 22 bars of Strauss' work were used as a major motif in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

"Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring may be the most important piece in the 20th century," Abrams explained with a smile and wide eyes.

It is said when people first heard Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, it was so exciting and crazy that the crowd rioted.

If you've never heard the Louisville Orchestra you have a standing invitation.

Abrams confessed, "I'm not going to be happy until we reach all 1.5 million people. That's my mission here."

Tickets start at $27 and are available by calling 502-584-7777 or visit LouisvilleOrchestra.org.

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