Yesterday Cincinnatians received the news of the passing of Cincinnati Pops founder and conductor Eric Kunzel. You may know Maestro Kunzel as the conductor of the Memorial Day and Independence Day concerts on the Washington Mall through the PBS-televised events the past 20 years.
Eric Kunzel was a showman as he played to an audience that loved him for it. My first exposure to our Prince of Pops was in the late 1970’s when the Pops performed free concerts in county parks to huge crowds. I last saw him this summer at a Pops performance with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Myself, like many at that performance, knew that may be the last time we see him as he was battling cancer. One month later our neighbors were at the performance that would be his last – one that he waved when leaving the stage as if he knew it was his last time.
Eric Kunzel came to Cincinnati in 1966 to be a member of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Eventually joining the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra as its resident conductor, Kunzel founded the Cincinnati Pops in 1977. Since then the Pops have released many recordings and sold millions worldwide. Whether through the world tours, appearances at Carnegie Hall, televised specials, and other means, Eric Kunzel put the Cincinnati Pops on the map. Even Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart was an assistant under Kunzel in Cincinnati before accepting the Boston podium.
Eric Kunzel is a Cincinnati musical icon yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He will be missed, yet “Thank You” for bringing us the beautiful gift of music.
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