CINCINNATI – The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and Conductor John Morris Russell announced Damon Gupton as Principal Guest Conductor starting in the 2019-2020 season.
Gupton is a celebrated musician and actor who made his Cincinnati Pops conducting debut in 2014 leading a collaborative performance with the Midtown Men, a group comprised of original cast members from Broadway’s Jersey Boys. He also led the Pops on New Year’s Eve in 2015 in a concert featuring Tony DeSare, in performances with Motown legend Smokey Robinson in 2017, and most recently conducted the Orchestra for the “Haunted Hall” concerts at Music Hall in October of last year.
“Damon is a fantastic musician who has really connected with both our audiences and musicians,” said Russell. “He’s a tremendous talent who brings his own perspective, style and wealth of musical knowledge. We are thrilled to welcome him as our Principal Guest Conductor.”
Gupton will begin his tenure leading the Orchestra in four programs during the 2019-2020 season including Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back at Music Hall on September 6, 7 and 8, a New Year’s Eve concert celebration with Capathia Jenkins and Tony DeSare on December 31, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s annual Classical Roots concert on March 6, and a one night only Pops concert with Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers on April 14.
“It’s always a treat to spend time with the Cincinnati Pops and it’s an honor to be named Principal Guest Conductor,” said Gupton. “The Orchestra’s musicians are so versatile and the programming and artistic collaborations are exceptional. I’m grateful to the Pops and John Morris Russell for this wonderful opportunity and look forward to getting to know the great city of Cincinnati even better through this exciting new role.”
“Damon has a dynamic presence on the conducting podium and a consummate artist,” said Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra President Jonathan Martin. “Our past experiences with him have been nothing short of extraordinary and we look forward to working with him in this expanded capacity.”
A native of Detroit, Gupton served as American Conducting Fellow of the Houston Symphony and held the post of assistant conductor of the Kansas City Symphony. In addition to the Cincinnati Pops, his guest conducting engagements have included the San Francisco Symphony, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Toledo Symphony, Fort Worth Symphony, Florida Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, Long Beach Symphony, and San Antonio Symphony, among others. His collaborations include Leslie Odom, Jr. and Common.
Gupton received his Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Michigan, studied conducting with David Zinman and Murry Sidlin at the Aspen Music Festival, and with Leonard Slatkin at the National Conducting Institute.
Gupton is also a professional actor and portrays Bill Henderson on the television series, Black Lightning, which is set to start its third season in October. Additional television credits as a series regular include Criminal Minds, The Player, The Divide, Prime Suspect, and recurring appearances on programs including Dirty John, Goliath, Bates Motel, The Newsroom, Suits, Empire, and Law & Order, among others. His film credits include Whiplash, LaLa Land, This Is Forty and The Last Airbender, among others.
Cincinnati Pops Orchestra
The Cincinnati Pops, which also performs as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO), is under the direction of John Morris Russell and presents a diverse array of musical styles, all bathed in the world-renowned “Cincinnati Sound.” The Pops was officially founded in 1977 with the late Erich Kunzel as an offshoot of the 124-year-old CSO, and just since 1980, the Orchestra has sold ten million recordings around the globe.
The growing list of celebrated artists who have collaborated with the Pops include Ella Fitzgerald, Frederica von Stade, Doc Severinsen, Henry Mancini, Aretha Franklin, Audra McDonald, Mel Tormé, Kristin Chenoweth, Jennifer Holliday, Vanessa Williams, Leslie Odom, Jr., Dave Brubeck, The Temptations, John Williams, Idina Menzel, Smokey Robinson, Rosemary Clooney, Mandy Patinkin, Arturo Sandoval, Peter Frampton, Boyz II Men, Bernadette Peters, Lea Salonga, Ben Folds, Rhiannon Giddens, Megan Hilty, Amy Grant, Rosanne Cash, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
The Pops tours nationally and internationally, most recently in Shanghai and Taiwan for acclaimed performances in March 2017 and Florida for Holiday season performances in December 2014. The Pops traveled to Beijing as part of the Opening Festivities of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, and in 2005, the Pops completed a historical tour to China and Singapore performing in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The Cincinnati Pops was the first U.S. Pops orchestra to perform in China, and also has appeared to enthusiastic audiences in New York’s Carnegie Hall, in Washington D.C., and Japan.
In 2012, the Pops released its first recording under John Morris Russell, Home for the Holidays. Subsequent recordings include Superheroes, Carnival of the Animals, American Originals, American Originals: 1918, and Voyage. In the spring of 2016, the Pops launched American Soundscapes, an online video series produced in partnership with CET that features Pops performances captured live that has already reached over a million viewers around the world.
With a newly articulated vision is to be the most relevant orchestra in America, the CSO and Pops are guided by three principles: to being inspiring, innovative and inclusive.