ISO Spotlights Its Star Musicians And Singular Guest Artists

February 2, 2023
Spotlight on ISO Musician. Courtesy of Tom Russo. Used with permission.

Metropolitan Youth Orchestra Director Keystle  Ford – Courtesy of Tom Russo. Used with permission.

Saturday, I attended the “ISO Spotlights Musicians” Pop Series concert, led by Jack Everly. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Pops Series concert was special on so many levels — the arrangements, the guest artists, the ISO musician solos, the participation of Metropolitan Youth Orchestra musicians, and the concert program itself all contributed to a sparkling evening of entertainment.

Donata Cucinotta – Courtesy of Tom Russo. Used with permission.

Arrangements created by ISO Principal Pops conductor Everly are often featured in his concerts. Act 1 included Everly’s medley that paid tribute to TV show themes of the 50s and 60s, played sprightly by the ISO, with such gems as “I Dream of Jeannie,” “Bonanza,” “Dragnet,” “The Donna Reed Show,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Hogan’s Heroes,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” The Flintstones” and many others. Listening to this comprehensive soundtrack of my youth was pure delight for this thoroughly engaged Baby Boomer.

Another concert highlight was the performance of soprano Donata Cucinotta, a Seymour, Indiana resident, who shined in solos of the iconic Puccini arias “Vissi d’ arte” from “Tosca” and “Quando m’en vo sapera” from “La bohème.”

Boding well for the future of classical music was the participation of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra (MYO) at the top of Act 2. The group is a youth and family development program of the ISO, which is all about learning life skills through rehearsals and performances of music. Led by MYO director Krystle Ford, the budding musicians played alongside ISO players in “Cumbia y Congo,” and “Innocente,” and with Everly conducting “Embraceable You,” which included a soulful solo by principal trumpeter Conrad Jones.

Ashlee Baskin – Courtesy of Tom Russo. Used with permission.

Ford returned to the podium later to conduct her dynamic arrangement of a medley from “Dreamgirls,” during which impressive local singer Ashlee Baskin stopped the show. Making a dramatic entrance from the audience, she belted a spectacular rendition of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” made famous by Jennifer Holliday who originated the role of Effie in the musical. Following her performance, Baskin received a standing ovation from members of the appreciative audience.

Besides Jones, two other ISO musicians, concert master violinist Kevin Lin and cellist Austin Huntington, who previously were featured on posters promoting the ISO, were also showcased in solos. Demonstrating impeccable virtuosity, they both soloed in “White Swan Pas de Deux” from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.”

The “Swan Lake Act 4 Finale” closed the concert with a resplendent flourish, leaving me feeling satisfied that I had witnessed an evening of diversion that I will long remember for the first-rate caliber of its artists, their exemplary performances, and the variety of the program.

For tickets and information about the 2022-2023 Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra season visit













photo: Josh Humble

About Tom

Journalist, producer, director, Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, arts administrator, TV contributor, actor, model, writer and lyricist, Tom Alvarez has had an extensive career in media and the fine arts and continues to be an enthusiastic and devoted fan of both. His passion and unique background grant him insight, access and perspective to cover, promote and review the arts in Indianapolis, Central Indiana and beyond. Follow him on social media @tomalvarezartswriter and @tomalvarez1.

Alvarez has been writing about theatre, dance, music, cinema and visual arts for 40 years. His work has appeared in the Indianapolis Star, NUVO, Indianapolis Monthly, Arts Indiana, Unite Magazine, Dance Magazine, NOTE Magazine, and, among many other print and online platforms. A former contributor to Across Indiana on WFYI-TV, he currently has a regular performing arts segment on WISH-TV’s Life. Style. Live!

A principal of Klein & Alvarez Productions, LLC, Alvarez co-created “Calder, The Musical” and is the managing director of Magic Thread Cabaret. As an actor-model, he has appeared in numerous TV and print ads and is represented by the Helen Wells Agency and Heyman Talent Artists Agency.

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