Five Questions with Long Beach Symphony Orchestra Singer Tony DeSare

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Here's the thing about the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra's POPS! concerts: You might not think you'd want to go, but you'd be wrong. Take me for example.

When I was a wee lad, I thought the music world began at the Germs and ended at Jawbreaker. I guess you could say I've expanded my horizons since then because I've been attending the LBSO's POPS! and classics concerts for about two seasons now and I might say they are my favorite shows to see. 

Now before you get all freaked out about going to a show where a sweaty dude in flannel's crotch isn't pressed into your backside, perhaps you should know that POPS! concerts aren't traditional classical music shows. This season's opener, for example, is on Saturday at the Long Beach Arena and features singer Tony DeSare doing a bunch of tunes from the Great American Songbook. That means songs written by the likes of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and George Gershwin--you'll probably hear "My Funny Valentine," "Just One of Those Things" and even Prince's "Kiss," along with some DeSare originals in the vein of the classic material he performs.


DeSare is proof that POPS! shows are fun. The 35-year-old singer lives in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a neighborhood he describes as "the only place in the world you can order pad thai at 4 a.m. and get it delivered ten minutes later by a guy from Guatemala." See what I mean? The dude's not only a killer crooner, he's got a sense of humor too. Already this show is way less stuffy than you imagined.

Because it's so close to Halloween, the audience is encouraged to dress in costume for this performance. (Personally? I think part of the fun of going to the LBSO is getting your swag on in fancy clothes. But I guess you could go as a werewolf or one of the guys from The Hangover if you wanted to.)

Oh yeah, the audience is encouraged to bring a picnic and eat before the gig. This includes wine, people! Now there's no excuse.

And in case you're still on the fence about the coolness of the POPS! concerts, here are five questions with DeSare that prove the real squares are the ones staying home instead of checking out classic pop music.

OC Weekly (Ryan Ritchie): What's it like being the youngest person at all your shows? Seriously, why do you think more young people (teens, 20s and 30s) don't know more about jazz standards, POPS shows and such?
I'm not always the youngest person at my shows...sometimes the grandkids are forced to come. I'm just kidding...sort of. Actually, I do find that there is often a wide age range at my shows. One great thing about the style of music I chose to pursue is that it's appeal is pretty universal. Many young people don't know more about classic pop (or jazz standards, as you called them) mostly because they haven't been exposed to enough of it to develop an appreciation, though I find that young people these days are open to just about anything that they think is good. That is why I think it's hard to define a generational sound for the current generation often called the "Millenials." They have the entire catalog of 20th Century pop music to choose from and can spend their time discovering the thousands of great recordings that have already occurred. I don't think the style of music I've been known for doing will ever be mainstream again; at the same time I don't think it will ever die because there are new people falling in love with it every minute of every day.
 
As to why we don't see more young people at orchestral pops shows, I think there are many reasons. One being a generational difference in supporting local arts, another being the fact that the younger people tend to have busier lives (children, demanding jobs, etc.) and less disposable income. Many orchestras now are making great strides in finding what it takes to attract younger people to live orchestral shows. 

How does one get into getting gigs with POPS orchestras? I mean, it's not like a normal club gig where you send them a demo, right? I assume there's more to it than that.
I feel really lucky to be working with orchestras now. No, it's not an easy gig to get. It's a combination of hard work, getting a reputation for being good and professional, having a great team that believes in you and at the end of the day, being able to deliver good entertainment to audiences. Singing my music with a live orchestra is probably the most thrilling thing I do now and I try my hardest every time to give it everything I've got and get better at it every time.

How much practice with the orchestra do you get before each show?
Rehearsal time is usually very limited because it is so expensive to run a rehearsal.  Usually we get to play everything once though. If I'm lucky, maybe twice. The good thing is the level of musicality of a symphony orchestra is usually so high, it's all they really need. 

Name one band/artist/song/record/etc. you really like that your fans would never expect you to like.
This summer I listened to a lot of Bon Iver, Mumford & Sons and Foster the People.  And of course, I won't change the channel if an Air Supply song comes on the radio. My Vanilla Ice cassette finally broke a few years ago, so I've adjusted to life without my daily dose of "Ice Ice Baby."
 
The LBSO allows guests to bring food and beverages to a pre-show picnic. If you were having a pre-show picnic (as an audience member, not a performer), would you drink red or white wine? Or perhaps both? If not wine, what would you bring if you were having a pre-show picnic?
I would definitely opt for the bottle of red. I hear that people are going to be dressing up for Halloween, too, during my show. Probably from my angle it will look like a bunch of zombies having a picnic with pitas and sun-dried tomato hummus from Whole Foods.

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