After the pandemic upended a season of planned programming and ticketed events by the American Pops Orchestra, its founding artistic director Luke Frazier was quick on his feet to come up with a few pandemic-appropriate alternatives. In addition to partnering with PBS to broadcast select APO concerts, the maestro also launched “Name That Tune: Trivia with APO.” Every Tuesday night at 7 p.m.
Frazier leads a free 30-minute virtual game of trivia focused on a different musical theme — from “Movie Musicals” to “Classic Jingles” to “The Nashville Sound” — with suggested donations split between the APO and various nonprofit organizational partners (Us Helping Us, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, One Colorado, and TransPonder have been among the beneficiaries in 2021).
Similarly, the organization took the virtual route with its annual NextGen competition last year, a move that ultimately helped it fully realize the national potential of the program, conceived as a way to highlight promising young musical artists and performers. And this year’s talent is a truly national mix representing colleges from across the country: Last November, 30 singers competed in the virtual semi-finals.
This weekend, 11 finalists will compete during a livestreamed event culminating in prizes for First-Place Female and First-Place Male, each receiving a scholarship of $1,000 and a paid performance opportunity with the orchestra next season. Winners will be determined by votes from registered attendees as well as a panel of judges, including recording artist Neyla Pekarek (formerly of the hitmaking folk-pop band The Lumineers), Helen Hayes Award-winning Nova Y. Payton, Black classical repertoire-focused artist and academic Lori Hicks, Broadway performer Sam Simahk, and award-winning playwright and stage director Eric Rosen.
Mary Michael Patterson, Adam Hyndman, Danny Burstein, Morgan James, Baayork Lee, and Vishal Vaidya are among the “Broadway Icons Dispensing Wisdom” for this year’s finalists, also doubling as presenters at the awards ceremony. The #NextGen21 finalists are Sam Boucher of Wyoming’s Sheridan College, Noah Canales of Michigan’s Oakland University, Ron Dukes of Indiana University, Edward Ferran of Boston’s New England Conservatory, Haile Ferrier of Elon University in North Carolina, Julia Hameed of Temple University in Philadelphia, Deepa Johnny of Indiana University, Libby Johnston of New York’s Manhattan School of Music, Lucas Meindering of the LU Theater at Liberty University in Virginia, Madison Russell of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and Maya Sistruck of the University of Michigan.
“NextGen National: Finding the Voices of Tomorrow” is Saturday, April 10, at 8 p.m. Free, with donations welcome. Registration is required to vote. Visit www.theamericanpops.org.
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