Former San Luis Obispo Symphony Music Director Michael Nowak will conduct a pops concert on Labor Day weekend in San Luis Obispo, he confirmed Friday.
Labor Day Pops will be held Sept. 6 at the Alex Madonna Expo Center. The concert is being presented by the newly created nonprofit organization Orchestra Novo, which was incorporated earlier this month.
News of the concert comes in the wake of the San Luis Obispo Symphony’s decision to cancel its popular Pops by the Sea concert this year. The nonprofit symphony’s board of directors, staff and orchestra musicians announced in June that they were suspending the annual fundraiser, traditionally held Labor Day weekend at Avila Beach Golf Resort.
At the time, symphony spokeswoman Lisa Nauful described Pops by the Sea as an expensive and labor-intensive event that has not been profitable for four of the past five years. On Friday, symphony board President Liz Summer declined to comment on Orchestra Novo’s upcoming Labor Day program.
Nowak said he jumped at the opportunity, when Avila Beach Golf Resort co-owner Rob Rossi suggested reviving the Pops event.
“I always thought Pops was a lot of fun, and obviously the community loved it,” Nowak said. Although an outdoor pops concert in Avila Beach ultimately didn’t prove feasible — “There were so many details that we just couldn’t finalize,” Nowak said — organizers decided to hold an indoor concert instead.
Labor Day Pops will feature classical and pops standards by the likes of Aaron Copland, George Gershwin and John Williams performed by about 60 area musicians. (The majority of them are San Luis Obispo Symphony members, Nowak said.) Soloist Inga Swearingen will perform a mix of jazz standards and original songs.
Jennifer Smith, chief executive officer of Harvey’s Honey Huts portable toilets company, will serve as mistress of ceremonies.
Despite its indoor setting, Labor Day Pops will share some attributes with Pops by the Sea, including table seating, Nowak said.
Concertgoers are encouraged to bring picnic baskets with food and nonalcoholic beverages. In addition, food, beer, wine and other beverages will be available for sale. In place of Pops by the Sea’s traditional baton auction, there will be a Win the Baton drawing offering one music lover a chance to conduct the orchestra.
The Sept. 6 concert will be Nowak’s third public outing as conductor since he was ousted as SLO Symphony music director.
He took the podium at the Concert for Harmony on June 28 at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts in Arroyo Grande. And he’s one of a handful of conductors participating in Saturday’s A Musical Memorial to Botso at the Performing Arts Center in San Luis Obispo, which pays tribute to Morro Bay music educator Wachtang “Botso.”
In a decision that was announced publicly May 14, the symphony board voted unanimously to terminate Nowak's contract. It has provided no details, saying only that the decision was a “confidential personnel matter.’’
Nowak is involved with Orchestra Novo, which plans to present concerts, chamber performances, educational outreach and more on the Central Coast.
“Orchestra Novo’s purpose is to nourish and inspire our community through the co-creation and shared experience of orchestral and chamber music that deepens our connection to ourselves, one another and our world,” the group’s mission statement reads.
“Our plan is not to shoot down the symphony or interrupt their business,” said Nowak, a nonvoting member of Orchestra Novo’s board of directors. “They have their season and we will respect their season and work around it as we work around other performing arts organizations.”
“The main thing is, we want to bring music to the community,” he added. According to Nowak, Orchestra Novo will announce its inaugural season “within a month or so.”
IF YOU GO
Labor Day Pops concert
When: 4 p.m. Sept. 6. Doors open at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Alex Madonna Expo Center, 100 Madonna Road in San Luis Obispo.
Admission: $35, or $350 for a table of 10.
Details: Proceeds benefit Orchestra Novo. For information, call Zette Harbour at 441-6688 or visit the concert website.