Meet The American Pops Orchestra

The American Pops Orchestra (APO) was founded in 2015 by Maestro Luke Frazier with the aim of breathing new life into orchestral pops programming and inspiring new audiences to discover the wealth of material in the Great American Songbook in dynamic ways.

The American Pops Orchestra (APO) has been hailed by DC Metro Theatre Arts as an “innovative group of artists [that] are reinvigorating the tunes you know and love with a contemporary flair that never fails to please.” APO is dedicated to the vast, rich repertoire of American music and to creating fresh, entertaining programming. These modern takes on classic music define what makes APO fun, fresh and funky. DC Metro Theatre Arts continues “With the Pops continually raising the bar with its programming, it is guaranteed that we will continue to be astounded.”

APO was founded in 2015 with a mission to breathe new life into orchestral pops programming, and inspire diverse audiences to discover the wealth of the material in the Great American Songbook in dynamic new ways. Seeing an opportunity to challenge the status-quo of the repertoire an orchestra performs, Founder and Music Director, Luke Frazier, created The American Pops with the intent of breaking the mold of the traditional pops orchestra. This new, distinctly “American” orchestra brings together versatile musicians and reimagined programming focused around the Great American Songbook, and presents it with an approachable, fresh spin in order to engage diverse audiences and make attending a live orchestral show fun again. Through non-traditional orchestral settings, APO aims to deliver popular American classics to those who already know and love them, while also introducing these timeless pieces to younger generations in approachable settings.  

Based in Washington, D.C., APO presents a myriad of performances in a variety of venues including the National Portrait Gallery, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Arena Stage at the Mead Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., as well as The Lincoln Center in New York City, and most recently entering a new virtual venue through online programming. Each show has a uniquely created theme with original arrangements of the American songbook that brings together the pops orchestra, Broadway singers and dancers, and other professional performers. Included in each APO season are newly imagined children’s stories, fitness and mindfulness yoga practices, the NextGen: Finding the Voices of Tomorrow Vocal Competition, and multiple mainstage productions. In addition to regular season programming, COVID-19 has presented APO with the opportunity to engage further with both local and national audiences through virtual content and the online production of their season events. Engaging with these audiences has allowed The American Pops to attract and maintain a national audience through dynamic and fresh programs that appeal to all audience types and ages.

The American Pops was formalized in 2015 after a successful, sold-out performance in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery, “She Did It Her Way,” a salute to the legendary female singers of the Rat-Pack era. Since its conception, APO has presented productions filled with re-orchestrated classics with a fresh vibe and orchestration. The American Pops Orchestra has served as the house orchestra for the Hispanic Heritage Awards since 2015, performing for millions of viewers via PBS. Believing that access to high-quality art experiences should be available to everyone, The American Pops has created outreach programs that deliver musical and artistic experiences to underserved arts-lovers of every age. In addition to providing to those with limited resources, APO is dedicated to assisting the artistic community through partnering with other arts organizations to build community in the arts world.

Meet Maestro Luke Frazier

Growing up in West Virginia and spending most of his career in New York City and Washington DC-Luke knows the breadth of audiences that can have their lives changed by music of all kinds. Luke, a classically trained pianist and conductor, spends every day focusing not only on musical excellence but also about using music as a tool to connect people from all walks of life. Gone are the days of programming and conducting in a vacuum – The arts today are about the communities we serve and the patrons both existing ones and those yet to be reached. This philosophy has led Luke to be a pioneer in how, where and what orchestras perform. This commitment to innovation led Luke to start The American Pops Orchestra in 2015 to serve as an artistic model of this thinking. In Luke’s shows, it’s not uncommon to hear pop singers, classical musicians and television stars all in the same program. Each concert, whether it be with his own APO or another orchestra around the country, is curated an an opportunity to highlight music, particularly American Popular Music.  This music that we’ve created together can be used as a rallying point in our collective lives. Luke crafts each concert with a dramatic arc featuring both innovative and classic arrangements to keep both audiences and artists engaged at every measure.

Luke is lucky to call many of the world’s most acclaimed artists, friends and collaborators. These friendships include Renée Fleming, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Patti Labelle, Kelli O’Hara, Juanes, Wynton Marsalis, Rita Moreno, Morgan James, Joshua Bell and so many more have led to concerts all over the country both in iconic venues and to millions of viewers on television. Passionately committed to the next generation of musicians, Luke spends a significant amount of time and resources with all levels of aspiring musicians. Each year APO hosts a free national collegiate vocal competition, hosts instrumental and vocal masterclasses for collegiate musicians, creates original children’s programming of the highest caliber and spends two weeks visiting schools free of charge in some of the poorest regions of our country. Luke believes in the power of music to open new doors for children – In fact, it was an elementary school gymnasium performance which included live musicians that inspired his own career.

To get to know more about Luke or The American Pops Orchestra and what there up to check out: @fraziersedge and www.LukeFrazierMusic.com or @theamericanpops and www.theamericanpops.org.

Meet The APO Musicians

Violin 1
Sarah D’Angelo
Sonya Hayes

Flute/Piccolo
Sarah McIver

Trombone
Jerry Amoury

Violin 2
Laura Frazelle
Marissa Murphy

Clarinet
Shawn Buck

Guitar/Banjo
Jim Roberts

Viola
Stephanie Knutsen
Matthew Maffett
Elizabeth Stahr

Trumpet
Brandon Cave

Piano
Alex Tang

Cello
Danielle Cho
Barbara Brown
Jihea Choi

French Horn
Chandra Cervantes

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A Message from The APO

The American Pops Orchestra has made it a priority to not only maintain Pre-COVID content in a virtual form, but also create new content to keep our audience engaged and our musicians employed.  As an organization that strives to break the mold of concerts, we are using COVID-19 to reimagine our normal operations.  Since March we have streamed two full original concerts, created solo performances by instrumentalist and vocalists, rethought our Music and Mindfulness series as a more often and virtual event, and partnered with organizations across the country in our virtual trivia series.  

In addition, APO has held multiple in-person socially distanced outdoor Porch Concerts that provide our audience with the opportunity to safely see live art despite the current situation around us.  Throughout the pandemic, APO has employed hundreds of musicians and artists and in a time when many other organizations couldn’t. In the words of Maestro Luke Frazier, “we never stopped.”

Moving forward, APO is proud to present our NextGen National vocal competition which will include students from across the country competing virtually for the chance to win a monetary prize and the opportunity to perform in a future APO MainStage Show. This will include a virtual audition and semi-finals with a live (COVID permitting) finals in Spring of 2021.  APO has also filmed multiple productions that will be broadcast nationally on PBS.  APO has been grateful to keep creating and making music despite the limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and will keep working to bring you, our valued audience, original and unique content.

To support APO as we keep moving forward you can click here, so that we can continue to employ more artists and musicians.  If you have any questions about what APO has been doing during the pandemic, please email hannah@theamericanpops.org. Thank you and stay safe.