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Erich Kunzel (1935-2009)

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See my article on the death of conductor Erich Kunzel published at DCist today:

Erich Kunzel, NSO Pops Conductor, Dies at 74, September 1

Erich Kunzel, who was familiar to Washingtonians from his regular appearances at the podium of the National Symphony Orchestra Pops at annual Independence Day and Memorial Day concerts on the Capitol Lawn, died this morning near his home in Maine. He was 74.

Diagnosed with pancreatic, liver, and colon cancer last spring, Kunzel continued to conduct, faithfully returning to the temporary stage looking out over the National Mall for the most recent installment of A Capitol Fourth, the annual concert on July 4. He made his final appearance just last month, with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, an organization he helped put on the map.

Kunzel started out as an assistant conductor under Max Rudolf at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, but he quickly found that he had a talent for bringing the orchestra out of its regular confines and making a connection to people who might otherwise not have ever heard an orchestra play. He took the Cincinnati players to parks and other outdoor venues, providing in many ways the model for the concerts he led here with the NSO, playing jazz, music from film soundtracks, as well as lighter classical fare, and often featuring all kinds of performers, from children to pop stars to, this past July, the Sesame Street puppets. It was always joyous and fun, not least because of his big smile and omnipresent Stars and Stripes bow tie. We will miss him.
Cards and notes of remembrance for the Kunzel family can be sent to the Cincinnati Pops, Music Hall, 1241 Elm Street in Cincinnati, OH 45202. You can also leave a virtual remembrance on the Web site set up by the Cincinnati Pops.

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