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Arts & Culture

Teddy Abrams Performs as Guest Conductor for Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra

Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra

Acclaimed conductor and pianist Teddy Abrams is bringing a huge generational shift to the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.

Abrams, 26, will lead the orchestra in the first concert of the 2013-2014 season.

Last year, Abrams was appointed assistant conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and is currently being considered to replace Fabio Mechetti as conductor in Jacksonville.

"It's not a popularity contest," Abrams said. "It's about finding the right person for the right job."

He said he does not let the idea of competing with other guest conductors interfere with making music at a very high level.

"If you focus on the competitive elements," Abrams said, "then you're really getting away from why we're all here in the first place; to make great music for the community."

Abrams said the new program, composed of three separate pieces, is emblematic of the most wonderful things an orchestra can create, while appealing to both popular taste and great music.

The program starts with Gershwin's "An American in Paris," a blend of jazz and classical music written in 1928.

Then, a piano concerto by Ravel, in which Abrams will be both pianist and conductor. Abrams said this is a very challenging task, even for experienced performers. And finally, Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4, written in 1877.

"When you look at them as a whole," Abrams said, "they work very nicely together."

The symphony has struggled to reach out to younger audiences. Abrams said the goal is to demonstrate that the music he plays is the same language as the music people interact with in their lives.

"Beethoven isn't the problem; Tchaikovsky isn't the problem," Abrams said. "The problem is how we format and present performances."

Beginning Oct. 14, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra will air Mondays on WJCT 89.9 FM at 7 p.m.