Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

Songwriter Randy Newman Embraces The Orchestral Sound

Jul 24, 2015
Danny Moloshok/Invision / AP Images

When you think of the greatest American songwriters, who comes to mind? George Gershwin? Cole Porter? Bob Dylan? Many would put Randy Newman with that group. Newman is one of the most prolific songwriters the U.S. has ever produced. His many honors include six Grammy Awards, three Emmy Awards and two Academy Awards for his work as a film composer. And he's a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Newman is appearing at Heinz Hall on July 30 as part of the Pittsburgh Symphony's Thursday Night Icons Series and he joined us to talk about his career and latest projects.

Paul A. Hebert / AP Images

The man known for hit songs like "Chances Are," "Misty" and "It's Not For Me To Say," Johnny Mathis, is coming to Pittsburgh next week to perform with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as part of the PSO's Thursday Icons Series. Mr. Mathis will talk about a career in which he has sold millions of records as well as aspects of his personal life including his battle with alcoholism. (starts at 13:06)

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

In the wake of its 2001 riots, Cincinnati assembled an Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations, the results of which were released earlier this week. Cincinnati police studied community problem solving, revised use-of-force policies, worked to eliminate biased policing and collected data on police stops. In light of the recent events in Baltimore, former Pittsburgh Police officer and overseer of riot control Sheldon Williams, along with Andrew Conte, who was present at the 2001 Cincinnati riots, join us to discuss what other major cities can take away from large-scale riots. 

Giving his analysis of how the Baltimore case showed how rioting can sometimes interfere with the objectives of a demonstration, Conte says: 

"When you have this kind of rioting that goes beyond spreading the message to causing property damage and people are getting injured, they start to lose the impact of the message... The focus has to be on the message and -- yes, breaking the law, perhaps --  but doing it in a way that emboldens your message. In this case, they lost control of the narrative." -- Andrew Conte

Williams emphasizes that demonstrations like the ones seen in Baltimore can get out of hand easily, and that's why law enforcement needs to be ready with an appropriate response:

"This type of behavior has the ability to just spur out of control into a point where people -- and not only just property, but people -- can get hurt. So, that's why you have to have the response necessary to quell that type of activity" -- Sheldon Williams

Also in the program, Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra conductor Robert Bernhardt talk about their upcoming collaborative performance.

Ryan Loew / WESA

George Takei, who originated the character of Hikaru Sulu on “Star Trek,” joins us in studio. This weekend, Takei will host the PNC Pops "Sci-Fi Spectacular” at Heinz Hall. Takei talks about that event, his acting career, his history of activism and the upcoming Broadway musical "Allegiance," in which he has a starring role.

Pittsburgh Symphony

The Pittsburgh Symphony Pops is making it a movie night this weekend with "Heroes and Villains," a show that will have Grammy award winning vocalist Sheena Easton taking center stage.

Easton will sing the title song of the James Bond film "For Your Eyes Only," which she recorded for the film's title sequence and "Nobody Does It Better" from "The Spy Who Loved Me" by Marvin Hamlisch.

PSO Violinist to Bring Pittsburgh Love to Boston Marathon

Apr 15, 2014
Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

Last weekend, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra violinist Susanne Park held a benefit to raise money for Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston.

The institution was key in helping victims of the Boston Marathon bombings last year. This year, Park has gathered donations from local businesses to help the cause. Her sister ran in the marathon last year and she said she tracked her sister’s progress in the race until everything suddenly stopped.

Park's sister was one of the many runners unable to contact family for hours amidst the chaos.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra says it has postponed plans to perform in Iran this August, but still hopes to reschedule for next season.

The Pittsburgh Symphony was the last American orchestra to perform in Iran, in 1964. Officials had hoped to return for a 50th anniversary tour. James Wilkinson, president of the symphony, says in a statement that they need to devote more time to planning.


The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is partnering with the nonprofit American Middle East Institute to look into a possible tour of Iran.

Robert Moir is the PSO's senior vice president for artistic development and audience engagement, and Simin Curtis​ is from the American Middle East Institute.

Moir says the potential tour would  mark a significant cultural exchange for two countries that severed diplomatic ties over three decades ago, and it would mark the 50th anniversary of the symphony orchestra's 1964 visit to the country.


What does a good novel have in common with an orchestral score? Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra assistant conductor Fawzi Haimor, talking with 90.5 WESA Morning Edition Host Josh Raulerson, says, "more than you might think." In this week's edition of Speaking Volumes Fawzi Haimor discusses books that are music to his eyes.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has had financial troubles over the last few years.

With its endowments down millions of dollars and the deficit tripling, the musicians agreed to a 9.7 percent pay cut in 2011.

In addition to the salary cuts, the musicians themselves donated a combined $100,000 in 2011-12 to keep the symphony going.

That’s when Michele and Pat Atkins took notice.

The retired Point Breeze couple will give $1.2 million over the next three years to contribute to salary increases in the musicians’ new contracts.

The Star-Spangled Symphony Orchestra

Mar 29, 2013
Noah Bendix-Balgley Website

  Monday is opening day of the Pittsburgh Pirates' 2013 season and before you hear the cry of, “Play ball,” there are some other traditions observe, one being the performance of the national anthem. Noah Bendix-Balgley, violinist and concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra talks about performing the national anthem for the Pirates' season opener.