Fly me to the Schuster

Dayton Philharmonic pays tribute to Sinatra and Friends

By Gary Spencer

Photo: Steve Lippia croons the audience with classics from Sinatra and other timeless voices

When it comes to music, especially popular music, tastes and trends wax and wane, and certain types of popular music go in and out of style. But some music retains a certain “cool” factor about it, even decades after it was initially popular, such as the timeless music of The Beatles or Johnny Cash. Another artist you could make the same argument for is “Ol’ Blue Eyes” Frank Sinatra, and the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra is set to make the case for Frank and his many peers such as Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and others in its first 2016-17 SuperPops performance entitled Sinatra and Friends. But that perhaps begs the question, what is Superpops, anyway?

“My working definition of orchestral pops music is the orchestra playing the popular music that the audience grew up listening to,” says DPO Artistic Director and Conductor Neal Gittleman.  “That used to mean Broadway, the standards of the ‘Great American Songbook,’ light classics, orchestra novelty pieces.  Now, our audience is much more spread out, taste-wise.  We have fans of that music, but also people like me who were more into the rock, folk, and R&B scenes. Since our SuperPops audience includes a lot of baby boomers, Steve Lippia’s Sinatra and Friends show hits a sweet spot, appealing both to people who were fans of the Sinatra-Martin-Bennett-Damone-Darin style and converts like me, too.”

Steve Lippia is a Las Vegas-based singer whose resume boasts headlining gigs at jazz clubs and festivals across the globe, performing with the Nelson Riddle and Woody Herman Orchestras, appearances on Fox, CNN, ABC, and BBC television, and a Grammy Award nomination in 2010. He will be returning to the Gem City as special guest vocalist for the first time since his last SuperPops concert with the DPO in a Sinatra-themed concert back in 2008 that proved to be a big hit. According to Gittleman, bringing Lippia back for Sinatra and Friends was a no-brainer.

“He’s a really good singer who has a real affinity for the Sinatra-era repertoire and knows the songs inside and out,” he explains. “We wanted to have him back [in] a program that wasn’t just Sinatra but was Sinatra-plus, and that’s exactly what he’ll give us.”

Lippia himself admits this affinity for the crooners of a by-gone era is before his time, but the music of Sinatra and his ilk connected with him.

“Even though I am a baby boomer and love rock and roll, I also love the music of my parents’ generation,” Lippia explains.  “Also, I think my voice is naturally suited for this style of music. The singers who most influenced me are Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin, Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney—all of them have great voices and, most importantly, really know how to style and sell a tune. Frankly, I believe we have yet to match the depth, quality, poetry, elegance, and sophistication of my parents’ music.”

With his knowledge and love of the music of his parents’ generation, Lippia went about assembling a program that included choice selections from Sinatra’s vast catalog such as “It Was a Very Good Year” and “Luck Be a Lady,” in addition to other classics of the era such as “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and “Mack the Knife.”

“The show I will be performing is a celebration of the great American crooners,” Lippia explains. “The Dayton Philharmonic audience can expect to hear their philharmonic playing some of the most beautiful, recognizable hit arrangements of this country’s best crooners from the ‘popular American songbook’—songs written by Gershwin, Porter, Kander and Ebb, Jule Styne, and other great composers.  Guests may expect songs like  “I Love You Just The Way You Are,” “Beyond the Sea,” “My Way,” and “New York, New York,” among others.”

According to Lippia, the songs were carefully chosen for maximum enjoyment by the performers and audience alike with a reverence for adhering to the original presentation of these classics, but with a special, personal touch.

“What I find is that this music really resonates with people, and they seem to love the fact that they get to hear lots of hits by several major pop icons in one show,” he says.  “All of my symphony musical arrangements are written by award-winning arrangers and capture the essence of the famous original arrangements by the likes of Axel Stordahl, Nelson Riddle, Don Costa, Gordon Jenkins, Neal Hefti, Quincy Jones, and Billy May. It is always my goal to sing these songs with authenticity, respect, and in a way that inspires audiences. While I have certainly borrowed some elements from these great crooners, I seek to convey my own interpretation of some of our country’s great classic songs. I always like to weave some interesting anecdotes and backstories about the songs into the show, as well.”

In summary, Lippia recommends Sinatra and Friends very simply in a way even the youngsters will understand:

“Expect a very energetic, powerful musical experience. We intend to raise the roof at the Schuster Center!”

The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra SuperPops presents Sinatra and Friends Friday, Oct. 28 and Saturday, Oct. 29 at the Schuster Center, 1 W. Second St. in downtown Dayton. Shows begins at 8 p.m., and tickets are $29-79 in advance. For more information, please visit


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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at

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