'Boy genius' conductor eager to revitalize Louisville Orchestra - WDRB 41 Louisville News

'Boy genius' conductor eager to revitalize Louisville Orchestra as 2014 season begins

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Teddy Abrams sits at his piano. Teddy Abrams sits at his piano.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- In four years, The Louisville Orchestra has gone from bankruptcy to opening its 2014 season under one of the most sought-after conductors in the country.

The "boy genius” is now giving the Louisville Orchestra a new direction and a new sense of excitement.

It's not unusual on Thursday afternoon to hear music emanating from an old antiques building in Nulu these days. That's where Teddy Abrams now lives. At the age of 27, he's the youngest conductor the Louisville orchestra has ever had.

His journey began early as he learned piano when he was just four-years-old. He then mastered the clarinet at eight and stood on the podium for the first time when the head of an orchestra in his hometown of San Francisco gave him his first shot at conducting. He was 10.

“She gave me a number of opportunities to conduct a movement here, a movement there,” Abrams said. “So, I conducted bits of Beethoven's 5th Symphony and Beethoven's 7th Symphony, and all sorts of wonderful repertoire as a little kid basically just experiencing what really then felt like magic.”

That magic has taken Abrams from San Francisco to Miami, Detroit and even Budapest. He says Louisville is the first place he feels settled and he has a clear vision for its future.

Part of that involves taking the orchestra outside of the concert hall and out into the community with a new series called Music Without Borders. The orchestra will perform in churches and community centers around Kentuckiana.

“If we're supporting a full-sized symphony orchestra, with world-class musicians, then we should be hearing them all the time,” Abrams explained. “Simply existing in one location or two locations and playing there a couple of times during the weeks that we're active, is not enough for me. We're supposed to be the Louisville Orchestra and that means that we need to get out of where we are and go find people.”

Many of the musicians are already solidly on board.

“27 is definitely young to be music director,” said violinist Kim Tichenor. “But, he brings with him so much maturity that I think he's, believe it or not, a pretty old 27.”

The other part of Teddy's vision involves changing the music the orchestra plays to mix the past with the present.

“It's, I hope, a great balance between things that people love and care about already if they've been coming for many years. Or, even if they've been coming for many years, things that challenge and certainly excite them,” Abrams said. “That means focusing on the music that's being written now, and proving to people that the music that's being written now is great.”

Abrams is among those doing the writing. In fact, this Saturday's Fanfara will mark the Louisville debut of this piece he composed.

Teddy is so new to Louisville that his bags are still not unpacked. Pieces of art and collectibles, two of his other passions, fill the front rooms of his home. But when he gets settled, he wants to turn the entire area into a community haven for enjoying music.

“The Orchestra needs a kind of place where we can have both events and feel very, very connected and comfortable with the people that make the orchestra possible. In this case it would be me or whoever maybe guest artists are playing with us they can stay here, they can live here. It's kind of a music festival I want to create,” Abrams explained.

So, how long will Abrams call Louisville home? That, like beautiful music, is up in the air.

“This is where I'm committed to for I don't know how long, but for a while,” he said. “Until the vision that we all seem to share is accomplished, or at least we can see it.”

The Louisville Orchestra has already surpassed its goal for season subscriptions.

Fanfara begins at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, September 6 at the Kentucky Center.

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