Pops conductor Enrico Lopez-Yañez joins Pacific Symphony
There are many expectations for any new conductor, but donning an Anakin Skywalker costume isn’t typically chief among them.
Pacific Symphony’s new pops conductor, Enrico Lopez-Yañez, isn’t a typical conductor, however. Lopez-Yañez made his debut at Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall over the weekend with a two-night performance of the “Music of Star Wars,” which included themes from John Williams and Michael Giacchino.
“On stage in the second half, I dressed up in my Anakin Skywalker outfit and we pulled up audience members from the house and I led them in a lightsaber Jedi training kind of moment,” Lopez-Yañez said.
The Pacific Symphony was founded in 1978 as a collaboration between Cal State Fullerton and north Orange County community leaders led by Marcy Mulville. Music director Carl St. Clair has led the Pacific Symphony for the past 34 years, and the organization remains dedicated to performing inspiring, entertaining and diverse programming. Pacific Symphony has been the resident orchestra of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall since 2009, with a repertoire that includes orchestral masterworks and the music of today’s contemporary composers.
So far, Lopez-Yañez said he has felt warmly welcomed in his new role and hopes to balance bringing a fresh take to the Pacific Symphony while continuing to honor its traditions.
“I am very excited that people have been so welcoming in embracing some of my new ideas and my new approach to things while still trying to embrace what has worked so well for so long,” Lopez-Yañez said. “I think that is always a challenge for any new conductor coming into an organization.”
Born in San Diego and a UCLA music student, Lopez-Yañez is also the principal pops conductor for the Nashville and Dallas symphonies. The 34-year-old is an accomplished composer and arranger, with experience conducting for a wide-range of performers, including Patti LaBelle, Itzhak Perlman, Nas, Kelsea Ballerini, and Portugal the Man. He is the 2023 recipient “Mexicanos Distiguidos Award” for his advocacy for Latin music.
“I have a show coming up this season at Pacific Symphony called ‘Latin Fire,’ and the first half of that show features arrangements that I did along with trumpet player José Sibaja ” said Lopez-Yañez.
As the artistic director and co-founder of Symphonica Productions, LLC, Lopez-Yañez creates programs with the intention of reaching new audiences, and he is becoming well known for his his unique style of audience engagement and ability to fuse orchestral music and entertainment.
“I think a lot of my ideas that I brought even in the first weekend that were accepted were less traditional than what a lot of orchestras have done or are doing,” said Lopez-Yañez.
Before each performance this past weekend for example, Lopez-Yañez hosted a ‘Cocktails with the Conductor’ event, which gave audience members a chance to connect with Lopez-Yañez and musicians. Lopez-Yañez is determined to bring lightheartedness and joy to orchestral performances, and he set the tone this weekend for his season with the Pacific Symphony.
“Pops is one of the most simple and accessible ways to connect to a vast audience and a less traditional Symphony-going audience, mainly because “pops” is such a catchall term,” said Lopez-Yañez. “All that it really means is every genre of music … non-classical music, but also sometimes it includes classical music.”
Lopez-Yañez said he is looking forward to working in Orange County with the Pacific Symphony this season, which includes a performance with Latin and jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval on Feb. 16 and 17, Lyle Lovett on March 8 and 9 and viral sensations Ben Rector and Cody Fry on May 10 and 11.
“The opportunity for orchestras like the Pacific Symphony is to really serve the community by representing all styles and genres of music and to serve the musical interests of that particular community,” said Lopez-Yañez. “The most important part of our mission is serving the community of Orange County.”
Tickets for the 2023-24 Classical & Pops season can be found at pacificsymphony.org.
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