Orchestra Conductor. As maestro of the Cincinnati Pops for over 30 years, he presented everything from Beethoven to The Beatles, bringing the classics to new audiences. Raised mostly in Queens, New York, and in Connecticut, he graduated from Dartmouth, attended Harvard, and earned his master's degree from Brown University. After working as an assistant to Maestro Pierre Monteux, Kunzel made his professional debut with the Santa Fe Opera in 1957. He became associate conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony in 1965 and formed the Cincinnati Pops in 1977. (The two groups have the same personnel, but much different repertoire and style). From the start, he brought new fans to classical music, both by presentation of popular works, and by his easy interaction with audiences. His touch was light; the playing of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" whenever outdoor concerts experienced wet weather proved an enduring hit. With the emergence of digital recording in the early 1980s, he released a number of offerings of sonic fireworks for Telarc, many of which remain best sellers; the artillery in "The 1812 Overture" has ruined numerous fans' speakers. Over the years, Kunzel was to guest conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra, the London Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, and many others. In 2006, President Bush awarded him the National Medal of Arts. Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2009, Kunzel continued to perform during his illness, conducting concerts in Washington, DC for Memorial Day and July 4th; he made his last appearance with the Cincinnati Pops one month before his death. His associate Steve Reineke said of him: "He was able to take highbrow and in his inimitable way make it somehow lowbrow. And I mean that in the best way possible."
Bio by: Bob Hufford