In his final season as Sarasota Orchestra’s Principal Pops Conductor, Andrew Lane prepares to lead our upcoming Pops concert, My Favorite Things. Broadway actress and Sarasota native Maria Wirries joins Andy and Sarasota Orchestra as this concert’s guest soloist. She has collaborated with Andy and Sarasota Orchestra from the earliest days of her singing career, making this concert a fitting tribute to Andy’s 17 years at the Pops podium. In our interview below, Andy reflects on his time with Sarasota Orchestra and tells us about an exciting new musical venture that lies ahead.
You've built a devoted following in your 17 seasons with Sarasota Orchestra. For those in the audience who may not know you as well, can you share an overview of how you came to serve as this orchestra's Principal Pops Conductor?
In Orlando, I was resident and pops conductor of the Orlando Philharmonic, and the Music Director of the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra. The FSYO was one of four youth orchestras selected to participate in the National Orchestra Festival, I believe in 2003, which took place at the Van Wezel and the Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center. I met Leif Bjaland there, and Sarasota Orchestra happened to be looking for an assistant conductor at that time. As Leif and I got to know each other, I started working with the Orchestra shortly after on an ad hoc basis and with the Sarasota Youth Orchestras. Over the years my role evolved, and even though later the orchestra hired an assistant conductor, I stayed on and we started building the Pops series. And that's kind of how it all began.
What motivated the creation of a Pops program for Sarasota Orchestra, and how did you build it into what it is today?
When I first met [President & CEO] Joe McKenna, he told me, “I want the sky to be the limit with this orchestra.” And one of the things on the administrative and artistic agenda was to create a Pops series. We started off with one Pops concert at the Van Wezel, and that grew every year, finally arriving where we are now: three main concerts with triple performances in each.
This will be your last season as Sarasota Orchestra's Principal Pops Conductor. What are your feelings as this chapter of your music career comes to a close?
I've been conducting for 25 years, and I think the reason I've been able to do it as long as I have is, in big part, because of Sarasota Orchestra. I have great respect for the musicians, how they have played an important part in building the Orchestra, and the way they have stayed together as a body to help advance the artistic vision of the Orchestra.
Now, that isn't to say that there haven't been challenges. The musicians in the Orchestra are very particular. When you stand up in front of a group of players—sometimes 70 players who are experts at what they do—you better have your “A-game” ready.
When I stand in front of the Orchestra for a rehearsal, I'm more nervous than when I walk out for a performance. For a performance, we're ready. The audience is happy and ready to enjoy the performance. But when we're in rehearsal, if I'm asked a question, I'd better have the right answer and I better answer it quickly and move on to the next issue.
The Orchestra has kept me on my toes, and rightly so. That's their job, and they have an interest to make every performance the best it can be.
With your company Lanstro Horns, you're currently building an impressive profile as an instrument builder. How did you get started making horns?
About 30 years ago, when I was a musician in Washington, D.C., I learned brass instrument modifications and repairs. Making horns had always been something that I wanted to do, and I worked a bit with building components while I was a professional French horn player. My son Alex is also a French horn player—he actually just took a one-year position with the Florida Orchestra for this season, which he's thrilled about and, by the way, was my job 30 years ago! Anyway, horn-building evolved as a father-son project. He is a wonderful horn player and has added much to the process. It kind of snowballed, and about three years ago I decided I can actually do this, and it's something that I've wanted to do for a long time.
Can you explain the special modifications or techniques you put into a Lanstro horn to make each one an exceptional instrument?
I always try to get great horn players to play my instrument and make suggestions, which includes Sarasota Orchestra's Joshua Horne and Larry Solowey. I always want input because everybody's a little different. I've also worked a lot with Phil Munds, who is Principal Horn of the Royal Opera in London. He has endorsed my instrument and he performs on a model that carries his name.
How did you conceive of the program for your final concert as Principal Pops Conductor?
Sometimes we struggle to come up with a title that makes sense. This title, "My Favorite Things," was a pretty easy one. Every time I create a program, it's a collaboration with Sarasota Orchestra musicians and staff. It's easy to come up with great music titles, but how should they fit together in the final program? That is the challenge, and if I do my job right, the audience will have an enjoyable experience—and after all, that's why we do this.
Andrew Lane leads Sarasota Orchestra in his farewell concert, My Favorite Things, March 6-7. Buy Tickets