Pops goes the universe

Reno Pops Orchestra

Jane Brown conducts during a rehearsal with the Reno Pops Orcherstra for their upcoming <i>Destination Space </i>concert.

Jane Brown conducts during a rehearsal with the Reno Pops Orcherstra for their upcoming Destination Space concert.

Photo By David Robert

The Reno Pops are performing Destination Space on July 13 at 7: 30 p.m. at the Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheater, 6000 Bartley Ranch Road, $5. For more information, call 673-1234 or e-mail reno_pops@yahoo.com.

Anyone who considers orchestral music as having to listen to the baroque meanderings of people dressed in black has obviously never been to a Reno Pops Orchestra concert. Though decked in concert black, the Reno Pops draw on senses beyond the ear. At last summer’s Peter and the Wolf concert, the Pops provided an instrument petting zoo, allowing children to touch the instruments.

The Pops will explore space on July 13th at Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheater. The Destination Space concert sets the musical scores of Star Wars, E.T. and 2001: A Space Odyssey against a backdrop of images from the Hubble telescope, courtesy of Fleischmann Planetarium. Maytan Music Center will host the instrument petting zoo prior to the performance, and telescopes supplied by the Astronomical Society of Nevada will be available after the concert for the audience to view the night sky.

“Interesting opportunities arise musically when collaborating with the community,” explains conductor Jane Brown. She notes that the Reno music community, including professional musicians and private instructors, are very supportive of local music, from loaning literature to posting concert information on their Web sites.

In 1983, a small group of musicians founded St. John’s Community Orchestra (now Reno Pops) to make a wide variety of music accessible to the public by charging little or no admission for its performances. Through its evolution over the years, the goal of providing orchestral music to the community has remained a constant.

The volunteer orchestra is a community in itself, drawing on musicians from Reno, Carson City, Quincy and Susanville. Brown commutes in from Stagecoach to conduct the Pops. Representing a broad age spectrum, its members include an 11-year-old cellist and a contra bassoonist in his 90s.

How do they present PBS music to an MTV audience? During the Pops’ performances, Brown describes the story behind each piece—members of the audience are receptive even if they are unfamiliar with the music.

Growing up in Plumas County, Brown knew she wanted to be the one “to wave the stick and make the magic happen.” Throughout her career, Brown has worked with young people—as a music teacher at Quincy and Incline high schools and as former conductor of the Reno Youth Philharmonic. As conductor for the Pops, she enjoys the dynamics between the different ages. “It’s great to see young people working with more mature musicians—the mentoring goes both ways.”

Two years ago, Brown was on the verge of retiring from the Reno Youth Orchestra when Tom Theis approached her to lead the Pops. “Being a parent of a Reno Youth Orchestra member, I had the opportunity to witness her passion and talent to produce an outstanding youth orchestra,” says Thesis. Eager to pursue new horizons, Brown reluctantly agreed to one rehearsal. Inspired by the energy and enthusiasm of the group, she was hooked by the end of the rehearsal. Since Brown’s arrival, the Pops have grown from a small chamber ensemble of 30 members to a full symphonic orchestra of more than 70 musicians.

The Pops has a full season ahead, including a Monsters and Magic concert in the fall and a Christmas concert. In the spring, the Pops look forward to a collaborative concert with Bella Voce and composer Gwyneth Walker, famous for her “Match Point” piece designed to be conducted by tennis racket.