Q&A with conductors Jonathan Waters and Albert-George Schram

For the past several years, a combined artistic force has marked the end of the summer concert season and the beginning of football season.
The Columbus Symphony Orchestra and the Ohio State University Marching Band again will share the Picnic with the Pops stage for two concerts Friday and Saturday, July 27 and 28, at the Columbus Commons. Tickets are $23 in advance, $25 at the gate for adults; and $8 for children age 3-14. Visit picnicwiththepops.com.
The Beat asked both conductors – the CSO's Albert-George Schram, and Jonathan Waters, the interim (and hopefully permanent) director of TBDBITL – to share some of what makes this concert so special.

The Beat: What makes this concert so much fun to conduct?
Schram: It's always a unique occurrence and not too many charts are written for the band and orchestra combined, so that is pretty special. It's exciting but also scary. You know, there are many people to keep together, so it can be hard work. But we work our tails off, and I like the excitement that comes with it. It's a high-pressure thing, but we're up to the task.
Waters: This is my favorite concert of the year. Working with the professional musicians of the CSO and the enthusiastic students of the OSU Marching Band is an unforgettable experience.

TB: What does it feel like up on stage with the combined forces of those two groups?
JW: Being on stage with both groups is intense. The sound is massive. The stage absolutely vibrates with musical energy. I am sure it is wonderful to listen to in the audience, but to stand in the middle of all of that sound resonates one's soul.
AGS: I always have the best "seat" in the house, standing in front of a couple hundred musicians blowing their hearts out. There's nothing like it.

TB: What do you think is the reason for the success of this blended program?
AGS: The Best Damn Band in the Land. That's what they are. And the crowd is ravenous. The band has a wonderful following and gloriously loud. Their supporters are as much for the band as for football, and maybe some of them even more so. So you celebrate two large and central institutions together, everybody comes together and we have a party. It's fun.
JW: This concert is so successful because patrons in central Ohio appreciate these two tremendous musical organizations. Also, it falls about a month before football season and for me (and many others, I'm sure), it strikes the chord and begins the buzz that we all feel leading up to Buckeye football season. Furthermore, the music that we play is all specially made for the two groups. In many cases, we are playing music specifically arranged and written by Gene D'Angelo for the combination of the two groups.

TB: What are you looking forward to specifically about this year's program?
JW: You can't beat Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. The whole program will be tremendous. And I can't wait for the band to march down High Street and thunder into the Columbus Commons. I think the audience and our students are going to love it.
AGS: Gene D'Angelo – I'm eternally grateful to him for what he's done for the symphony but he's also wonderful for the marching band. He writes this great stuff specifically for our two ensembles together. There's not a great library, so he basically single-handedly comprises 90 percent of the library.