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An Interview with Lou Lemos

Syracuse Pops Music Director Lou Lemos Receives Ovation Award at 2023 Music Matters Event from the Syracuse Sounds of Music Association, Inc.

I was playing with my trio at the Music Matters event last month. The event was in honor of Syracuse Pops Music director Lou Lemos who was receiving the prestigious Ovation award for his merits with the Pops, and his involvements here in Central New York over the years. The event was held at The Links in their impressive ballroom. The event included a lovely dinner, a silent auction and a stellar performance from the Syracuse Pops.

It was here that I met Lou Lemos. I’m very happy that he agreed to this interview.

Chuck Schiele: For how long have you been involved with the Syracuse Pops – and tell us a bit about your experience with them?

Lou Lemos: I started the Pops Chorus 19 years ago to perform with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra. We continued to perform with the orchestra annually till today. The majority of the performances were on the Holiday Pops and occasionally on a variety of Pops concerts. The group has expanded to about 80 singers in concerts and a membership of about 120. 

Over the years we have performed with Symphoria in a variety of concerts. We did a touring concert of the 1st movement of the Messiah with a smaller orchestra in a variety of towns in central New York. This offered an opportunity for many people to hear professional performances of the Messiah in places where this was not available. 

We also sang during the summer in Auburn, Rome and other cities where music played by  Symphoria and a large chorus are not typically available.

Today we are opening up and playing in local places such as St. Paul Cathedral, Redhouse Arts Center and soon to be at the Everson Museum Auditorium. These opportunities are great for our expansion and growth.

CS: How did you get started in music?

LL: I started in music at age 4. I had a father and brother that were involved in music. Especially my brother who was a music teacher for most of his life. I started with the trumpet and singing at age 8. Throughout high school I was involved in singing, band playing and also a bass player in the orchestra and other groups. After high school, I went to the Crane School of Music at SUCP. 

CS: Your first or primary instrument is?

LL: My primary instrument is my voice. I have sung solos at different times and loved doing it. Singing helped me get into different conducting opportunities.

CS: What are some of the highlights along the way?

LL: My opportunity to conduct and create organizations has given me my greatest success and joy. I served as Musical Director for local productions of Bye Bye Birdie, Brigadoon, Annie and more, I also received SAMMY awards for Phantom of the Opera and Showboat and a SALT (Syracuse Area Live Theater) award winning production of Jekyll and Hyde. In 2017 we were also invited by the Albany Symphony to perform the world premiere of the Current Home by Ryan Chase to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Erie Canal. 

I have received two awards. In 2015 I received the Paul and Veronica Abel Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Art of Choral Performance. And recently received the Ovation Award from the Syracuse Sounds of Music Association. This is the greatest honor I have ever received.

CS: What are your thoughts on the Central NY music scene?

LL: I believe it continues in a positive direction, with Symphoria, Syracuse Opera, the Syracuse Pops Chorus and so many local community organizations and also so many professional performances at the Inner Harbor Amphitheater, Redhouse Arts Center, The Palace Theatre, and the Oncenter; they all contribute to our positive future. In addition with so many school programs that start the future of our music, we are on the right path.

CS: What advice do you have for someone at the beginning of their music life?

LL: Never give up. Music is so great for the future of our young people and we as a group need to continue to encourage this. The Pops has singers from 18 to over 90. That says it all.

CS: What’s in the near future for the Pops.

LL: We are performing at the Everson on December 11 at 4pm a half hour of wonderful Christmas Music. A week later we are part of the Symphoria Holiday Pops on December 17 for a matinee and evening performance. And more to come in the Spring!

CS: Please tell us how to stay in touch with you and your musical involvements?

LL: We have a website: Syracusepopschorus.org and feel free to contact www.syracusepopschorus.org for any questions.

CS: Thank you, very much Lou, for taking the time to chat with us here at Sounds of Syracuse.

LL: Thank you Chuck for a very enjoyable conversation and I look forward to talking to you in the future.

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is a lifelong, award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member Quatrocollective.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.