Guest Conductor, Teddy Abrams leads the Omaha Symphony


October 20th, 2017

ABRAMS: “The people that climb sheer cliffs, and don’t use ropes, like, why do they do that? I know they do it and they obviously love doing that but why, and what compels someone to get out there? A human being should not be able to play that concerto. I mean, they do, and it’s incredible.”

Teddy Abrams is the guest conductor with the Omaha Symphony this weekend. As a conductor, pianist, clarinetist, and so much more he understands the physical demands of performing something like the Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 3.

ABRAMS: “You know, everything seems like a great idea and as the time gets closer and closer to having to go out there and actually play the piano in front of human beings you realize how insane the whole proposal is. Just the idea of staring at this board of white and black keys and then it’s just you, pressing them down and it gets crazier and crazier that the feat is really is quite remarkable. We are really inoculated against the whole concept of how challenging it is to physically operate an instrument but this is something I try and remind people, especially as we are looking for new fans of the whole genre.”

Abrams will also be conducting Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 02.

ABRAMS: “When Russia was young, Ukraine was at its core, and that’s what it’s referring to. So, it’s one of those funny translations that becomes now what people think as the cute “Little Russian” symphony, which is not what Tchaikovsky meant at all. The reason he calls it the “Little Russian” or the “Ukrainian” is because he uses Ukrainian folk songs throughout the entire piece and overtly. Tchaikovsky had a weird relationship with that kind of overt quotation, plus you think about pieces like the 1812 Overture with overt quotes, but most of Tchaikovsky, his symphonic works do not directly quote something the way Copland directly quotes American folk tunes in Rodeo or Billy the Kid. It’s usually not that direct and that is why Tchaikovsky always had this somewhat tenuous relationship with the Russian musical establishment. Because the Russians, much like they are today, have a very strong sense of what it means to be Russian and a lot of pride in being Russian. They were also very interested in creating true Russian music; music that sounded uniquely Russian upon first hearing it.”

Abrams not only has a brilliant outlook on the music he is currently making, but the life of music based on the choices we make.

ABRAMS: “Hope is not a strategy, as I say. If you want things to be successful, you have to have a strategy. I think that just assuming, ‘Well, this music is so great that people will come to it’, is not a good strategy. We live in an era of extraordinary choices, I mean, this is an era when people can choose to do anything with their time, at any time. This is not one where, if you look at the history of the music that we are playing, people did not have that many choices. If you wanted entertainment or you wanted music they were all funneled into pretty specific experiences. Our competitors are not really just other concerts, our competitors are Netflix, and Facebook. That’s how I see it. The competition for our time is not just another musical event; it’s actually anything that relates to media that could grab somebody’s attention. And, when I say the competition, I don’t just mean the competition of going to the concert, I mean the competition in the concert. We are still competing for peoples’ attention and time while the concert is going on.”

Abrams dropped out of elementary school at the age of 11 to pursue a non-traditional music education.

ABRAMS: “A lot of it has to do with this whole repertoire of gestures on a non-verbal level. I mean, doing things with your arms and with your body has immediate physical and musical effects on the musicians, many which are incredibly subtle but also very powerful. There is no way to actually learn that, there is no way to figure that out without actually doing it. It’s because that feeling of being in front of musicians and bringing music to life that way is one of the greatest thrills and one of the most powerful experiences I ever had and I felt that immediately and knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life.”

He currently serves as the Music Director for the Louisville Orchestra in Kentucky and is excited to be working with the Omaha Symphony.

ABRAMS: “It’s great to be here by the way. I was so impressed with everything I have seen in Omaha. As Music Director of the Louisville Orchestra, I feel like the cities in the middle of the country, we’ve got to stick together because there are so many awesome things happening here and being from the coast, I know some of the costal bias and in San Francisco, understandably there is not knowledge of what’s happening in the middle of the country and how awesome it is. A city like this has such a vibrant arts culture, it’s clear.”

Guest conductor, Teddy Abrams will lead the Omaha Symphony with Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky tonight and tomorrow evening at 7:30pm in the Holland Performing Arts Center. The program also features guest pianist, Natasha Peremski and a piece by Michael Tilson Thomas, whom Abrams studied under. Tickets are available at or by calling Ticket Omaha at 402-345-0606.

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