Press Room

Houston Symphony Celebrates the Centennial Birthday of Nat King Cole

HOUSTON (Feb. 19, 2020) – The Houston Symphony and Principal POPS Conductor Steven Reineke celebrate the centennial birthday of Nat King Cole, one of the most celebrated and influential recording artists of the ’50s, in the program, Unforgettable: Celebrating the Nat King Cole Centennial, a concert highlighting his music at 8 p.m. Feb. 28 & 29 and 2:30 p.m. Mar. 1 at Jones Hall.

Led by Reineke, the orchestra and returning three-time Grammy-nominated vocalist Ryan Shaw hark back to Nat King Cole’s warm, smooth baritone and the timeless hits he made famous. Vocalist Josette Newsam joins them for interpretations of Cole’s greatest hits, such as “When I Fall in Love,” “Mona Lisa,” “Stardust,” “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” and many more.

Throughout the United States, the music industry, orchestras, and ensembles are celebrating the legacy of the musician whose music dominated the charts. Beyond his musical career, the legendary musician became a star of stage, screen, and television. He holds the distinction of being the first African American performer to host a variety TV series.

Unforgettable: Celebrating the Nat King Cole Centennial takes place at Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana Street, in Houston’s Theater District. For tickets and information, please call 713.224.7575 or visit Tickets may also be purchased at the Houston Symphony Patron Services Center in Jones Hall (Monday–Saturday, 12–6 p.m.). All programs and artists are subject to change.


Friday, Feb. 28, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 29, 8 p.m.
Sunday, Mar. 1, 2:30 p.m.
Steven Reineke, conductor
Ryan Shaw, vocalist
Josette Newsam, vocalist

About Steven Reineke
Steven Reineke has established himself as one of North America’s leading conductors of popular music. In addition to his role as Principal POPS Conductor of the Houston Symphony, this season, he celebrates his 10th anniversary as music director of The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall. Additionally, he is principal pops conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Steven is a frequent guest conductor with The Philadelphia Orchestra and his extensive North American conducting appearances include Atlanta, Cincinnati, Edmonton, San Francisco, and Sarasota.

On stage, he has created programs and collaborated with a range of leading artists from the worlds of hip hop, Broadway, television, and rock, including Common, Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Sutton Foster, Megan Hilty, Cheyenne Jackson, Wayne Brady, Peter Frampton, and Ben Folds, among others. In 2017, he was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered leading the National Symphony Orchestra, in a first for the show’s 45-year history, performing live music excerpts between news segments. In 2018, Steven led the same orchestra and hip-hop legend Nas performing his seminal album, Illmatic, on PBS’s Great Performances.

As the creator of more than 100 orchestral arrangements for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Steven’s work has been performed worldwide, and can be heard on numerous Cincinnati Pops Orchestra recordings on the Telarc label. His symphonic works Celebration Fanfare, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and Casey at the Bat are performed frequently in North America, including performances by the New York Philharmonic and Los Angeles Philharmonic. His Sun Valley Festival Fanfare commemorated the Sun Valley Summer Symphony’s pavilion, and his Festival Te Deum and Swan’s Island Sojourn were debuted by the Cincinnati Symphony and Cincinnati Pops Orchestras. His numerous wind ensemble compositions are published by the C.L. Barnhouse Company and are performed by concert bands worldwide.

A native of Ohio, Steven is a graduate of Miami University of Ohio, where he earned Bachelor of Music degrees with honors in both trumpet performance and music composition. He lives in New York City with his husband, Eric Gabbard.

About Ryan Shaw
Ryan Shaw is a three-time Grammy-nominated artist. He most recently appeared as Judas in the Lyric Opera House (Chicago) U.S. debut of the critically acclaimed Regents Park (London) production of Jesus Christ Superstar, which won the Oliver for Best Musical Revival. He also stared as the original Stevie Wonder in Motown the Musical on Broadway; on London’s West End, he was the Soul of Michael Jackson in Thriller Live. Ryan has toured the world and shared the stage with such artists as Van Halen, Bonnie Rait, Joss Stone, John Legend, B.B. King, Bruce Hornsby, and Jill Scott, to name a few.

As a concert soloist, Ryan made his Radio City Music Hall debut at the Dream Concert benefit to build the Martin Luther King Jr. National Monument in Washington, D.C. His Carnegie Hall appearances include the Elton John and Bernie Taupin Tribute and A Celebration of The African American Cultural Legacy, curated by Jessye Norman. He headlined Carnegie Hall’s Nat King Cole Centennial Concert. Ryan was the second artist in history to perform a return engagement at the Central Park SummerStage Gala (second to Stevie Wonder). The Houston Symphony featured Ryan at a July 4th celebration and its R&B Mixtape concert.

Upcoming and recent concerts include engagements with the Houston Symphony, The Cleveland Orchestra, Philly Pops, National Symphony, Colorado Symphony, Arkansas Symphony, Colorado Springs Philharmonic, Tucson Symphony, Harrisburg Symphony, Springfield (OH) Symphony, and Calgary Philharmonic, among many others.

About Josette Newsam
New York native Josette Newsam has been seen as solo and background vocalist on Today, Live! with Regis and Kelly, and Live! with Kelly and Michael and heard on voice-overs for NBCUniversal. She has performed lead and background vocals with amazing artists such as Bernice Johnson Reagon, Toshi Reagon, Melba Moore, Lou Reed, Macy Gray, Angélique Kidjo, Nona Hendryx, Billy Bragg, Norm Lewis, and Ben E. King.

Her regional theatre engagements include Ragtime as Sarah, Ain’t Misbehavin’ as Nell, Paul Laurence Dunbar’s The Party (Ensemble), and A Christmas Carol (Ensemble).

She toured with Bernice Johnson Reagon and Toshi Reagon’s musical adaptations of Gustave Flaubert’s The Temptation of St. Anthony and renowned director Robert Wilson’s Zinnias. She is currently Mrs. Sims in the musical adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower.

Josette is a member of the world-traveling gospel group The Bobby Lewis Ensemble and Toshi Reagon’s band Big Lovely as lead and background vocalist.

About the Houston Symphony
During the 2019–20 season, the Houston Symphony celebrates its sixth season with Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada and continues its second century as one of America’s leading orchestras with a full complement of concert, community, education, touring, and recording activities. The Houston Symphony, one of the oldest performing arts organizations in Texas, held its inaugural performance at The Majestic Theater in downtown Houston June 21, 1913. Today, with an annual operating budget of $35.2 million, the full-time ensemble of 88 professional musicians presents nearly 170 concerts annually, making it the largest performing arts organization in Houston. Additionally, musicians of the orchestra and the Symphony’s four Community-Embedded Musicians offer over 1,000 community-based performances each year at various schools, community centers, hospitals, and churches reaching more than 200,000 people in Greater Houston annually.

The Grammy Award-winning Houston Symphony has recorded under various prestigious labels, including Koch International Classics, Naxos, RCA Red Seal, Telarc, Virgin Classics, and, most recently, Dutch recording label Pentatone. In 2017, the Houston Symphony was awarded an ECHO Klassik award for the live recording of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck under the direction of former Music Director Hans Graf. The orchestra earned its first Grammy nomination and Grammy Award at the 60th annual ceremony for the same recording in the Best Opera Recording category.

Eric Skelly: 713.337.8560,
Mireya Reyna: 713.337.8557,


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