Steve Hackman

What’s a week in the life of a PSO conductor really like? He’s mashed-up everyone from Brahms and Radiohead to Beethoven and Coldplay and is a leading force on the classical music scene. As creative director of FUSE at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Steve Hackman produces the cross-genre concert series that has been getting raves (we’re all in) and drawing new young audiences to Heinz Hall. Our advice? Do not miss it. Repeat.

Monday, January 18

Wake up. New week. Deadline week . . . yikes. Week before a concert . . . yes. Breakfast.

The first part of every day is reserved for writing. I’m on a deadline for the March 9th FUSE@PSO show, “Stravinsky’s Firebird: Remix | Response.” It’s Firebird reimagined—weaving 13 original songs of mine into the ballet, featuring a rapper, singer, drummer, electronics and choir joining the Pittsburgh Symphony.

DJing at 2015 Cinema Serenade Soiree. Photo by Stephanie Strasburg.
DJing at 2015 Cinema Serenade Soiree. Photo by Stephanie Strasburg.

The show is fully written and scored, but I need to check through my work and make sure everything is where I want it. I listen to the entire piece in real time, stopping occasionally. Add a 2nd horn part here, take out some percussion notes there, clarify the notation for the strings here, make uniform the articulation of the brass there.

I try to do one meeting a day. Today’s meeting is with Norman Childs (of Eyetique) and his son Dan, whose brand Chromos Eyewear gives an underprivileged child a free eye exam for each pair of glasses sold. I get to see their hip new location in Lawrenceville.

Back home to Skype with Jecorey, aka 1200, who is rapping on the Stravinsky show.

Read a little bit: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. David Mitchell is a genius.

My meeting with 1200 reminds me that I still have two rap verses to write for the Stravinsky show. Work on those.

Gym. I’ve been listening to Mahler 2 there. A project idea is forming.

Dinner. One more Stravinsky session.

Exhausted around midnight. Study “Copland V. Bon Iver” for about 45 minutes. I love studying at night.

Read more; bed.

Tuesday, January 19

Wake up. There’s a spot in “Copland V. Bon Iver” that was running through my head all night so I check the score to make sure I have it memorized correctly.

Breakfast. A second proofreading session on Stravinsky.

Quick coffee at Crazy Mocha with Mike DeVanney and Jim Rimmel—who have been instrumental in drumming up support for the FUSE@PSO series—to talk through new ideas.

Steve Hackman
Steve Hackman

Lunch with Michael White, chair of the Mattress Factory board and member of the PSO board, at Gaucho in the Strip District.

Back home to work more on Stravinsky raps. I live at Gateway Towers and have met a lot of great people there. I always see one of my faves, Randi Dauler, in the elevator.

Do a little score study for an hour.

Tonight I rehearse with Beauty Slap, the fantastic band that is guest appearing on next week’s FUSE concert. We will go through the charts and make sure we’re in sync.

Wednesday, January 20

Wake up. Do another full listen down of the Stravinsky after breakfast. Feeling like it is ready.

Lunch at the new Smallman Galley with rock star city councilman Dan Gilman. The man.

Back to the apartment to Skype with my Stravinsky singer, Malia. Send off the Stravinsky files to my copyist. It’s time.

Quick check-in with Bob Moir, who brought me here when he was with the Pittsburgh Symphony. Ideas will fly around like crazy.

Gym then quick dinner at Tako with Peter Greer, PSO board member, great friend and another big reason I am here in Pittsburgh.

Back home for more Stravinsky rap work, Copland/Bon Iver, read, bed.

Thursday, January 21

Morning work on drum production for the Stravinsky show. The electronics (drum pad and backing track) need to be prepared.

Beethoven plus Coldplay. Photo by Wade Massie.
Beethoven plus Coldplay. Photo by Wade Massie.

Afternoon interview with Michelle Wright of WTAE over at Heinz Hall. After, I meet up with Jeremy Waldrup, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership executive director. Ideas abound.

Work out then check out Third Thursday at Carnegie Museum of Art. This BOOM Concepts work and Silent Disco thing sound pretty dope. I see Tracy Certo there, editor extraordinaire of NEXT Pittsburgh, and we chat it up.

Home, check-in on the Stravinsky raps, quick study session, read, bed.

Friday, January 22

Wake up, Stravinsky, beats.

Head to Heinz Hall. Make sure everything is set for the concert, check in on ticket sales, coordinate with sound engineer Tom, have a quick chat with PSO CEO Melia Tourangeau and make sure she can come to “Copland+Bon Iver.”

Pop in to Izzazu Salon to say hi to Gino and Emilio. More fantastic folks I’ve met in a short time here.

Finally hit a Cultural Trust Gallery Crawl tonight!

Drop in Howl at the Moon late-night to say hi to my boy Tim, who runs the show. I know him from back in the day in Chicago. Maybe jump on stage and do a couple tunes?

Saturday, January 23

We are performing a brand new :STEREO HIDEOUT: song of mine at FUSE next week, so I check in with my singers to make sure they are comfy on it.

Pumped about the evening. Early dinner at Bar Marco with Rich and Cindy Engler who have become great friends. Go to see River City Brass out in Carnegie at the Karma Banquet & Event Center—a couple of Beauty Slap guys play in it.

Drinks after at Andy’s Wine Bar at the Fairmont with Ron Chutz, PSO board member and good bud.

Sunday, January 24

Start thinking a little more about this Mahler idea . . .

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.