Press Room

Powerhouse Vocalists Join the Houston Symphony in Brand-New Soulful Program of Music of Aretha, Prince, Beyoncé and More

HOUSTON (Feb. 6, 2017) – The Houston Symphony will celebrate more than 50 years of soul influence Feb. 17-19 with a brand-new show featuring the best of Motown legends as well as today’s hottest R&B entertainers.

R&B Mixtape will take audiences on a trip down memory lane with nostalgic hits that iconic artists like Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye made popular as well as contemporary hits by some of the most influential R&B artists of today such as Prince, Whitney Houston, John Legend, Amy Winehouse, Alicia Keys, Michael Jackson and Beyoncé.

Led by Principal POPS Conductor Designate Steven Reineke, the program features Grammy nominee Ryan Shaw and N’Kenge, a versatile vocalist known for her role of Mary Wells in Motown: The Musical and for starring in the Michael Jackson Tribute Show world tour. N’Kenge made her Broadway debut in Sondheim on Sondheim singing alongside Vanessa Williams, Barbara Cook, Tom Wopat and Norm Lewis.

Houston-native background singers Chelsea Cymone, Jonquel Donte Holiday and La’Saydra Simmons will join the lead vocalists and the orchestra in this powerful tribute to one of the most influential genres that led to the birth of many others like funk, hip-hop and dance music. Holiday and Simmons will be making their Houston Symphony debut.

The concert will take 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 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). All programs and artists are subject to change.

R&B Mixtape

  • Friday, Feb. 17, 2017, 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, Feb. 18, 2016, 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, Feb. 19, 2016, 7:30 p.m.

Steven Reineke Conductor
N’Kenge Vocalist
Ryan Shaw Vocalist
Tickets from $25

About Steven Reineke

Steven Reineke’s boundless enthusiasm and exceptional artistry have made him one of the nation’s most sought-after pops conductors, composers and arrangers. Steven is the Houston Symphony’s Principal Pops Conductor Designate, music director of The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, principal pops conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and principal pops conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. He previously held the posts of principal pops conductor of the Long Beach Symphony and Modesto Symphony Orchestra and associate conductor of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.

Steven is a frequent guest conductor with The Philadelphia Orchestra and has been on the podium with the Boston Pops, The Cleveland Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia. His extensive North American conducting appearances include San Francisco, Seattle, Edmonton, Pittsburgh, Vancouver, Ottawa (National Arts Centre), Detroit, Milwaukee and Calgary.

Onstage, Steven has created programs and collaborated with a range of leading artists from hip-hop, Broadway, television and rock, including: Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Sutton Foster, Megan Hilty, Cheyenne Jackson, Wayne Brady, Peter Frampton and Ben Folds, among others.

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, Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Casey at the Bat are frequently performed 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 currently resides in New York City with his husband, Eric Gabbard.

About N’Kenge

“N’Kenge’s an artist who’s destined to make a serious impact on several musical fronts. From operatic to spiritual, from pop to musical theater, from jazz to blues. Tender or intense, N’Kenge’s performances are consistent in her technical excellence. Her musical repertoire covers 11 languages, and her power and control are uncanny.” – Joe Berger, LBTV Music
Berry Gordy calls her “the most versatile artist I know.” Burt Bacharach says, “N’Kenge is an amazing talent that needs to be heard.” The New York Post called her “electrifying” as Mary Wells, a role she originated in Broadway’s smash hit Motown: The Musical. N’Kenge made her Broadway debut in Sondheim on Sondheim singing alongside Vanessa Williams, Barbara Cook, Tom Wopat and Norm Lewis.

Recently, N’Kenge was seen on TV presenting an award at the 58th Annual New York Emmy Awards and singing the National Anthem at Madison Square Garden. She performed for President Bill Clinton at the White House and for President Barack Obama at the Commander in Chief Ball. She starred in London’s West End at the Theatre Royal in a tribute to the late great Ray Charles and has performed as soloist at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. A performance at the Library of Congress was broadcast by NPR.

This energetic, well-rounded singer was recently nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of the leading roles in both the Elton John/Tim Rice musical Aida and in Marion Caffey’s 3 Mo’ Divas by the Helen Hayes Awards and the ariZoni Theater Awards of Excellence. N’Kenge starred in the Michael Jackson Tribute Show world tour and is consistently seen as a soloist in pops programs with the Indianapolis and Baltimore Symphony Orchestras, Cleveland Orchestra and The New York Pops, among others.
N’Kenge is currently working on a new album. To learn more about her tours and recordings, visit

About Ryan Shaw

Ryan Shaw, born Dec. 25, 1975, in Decatur, Georgia, grew up in a deeply religious Pentecostal family. He began singing in church at age 5 and later formed a family group, the Shaw Boys, with four of his brothers. “We didn’t listen to secular or pop music either in or out of our house,” he explains. “So my early musical influences are all from the gospel world—singers like Darryl Coley, Keith Brooks, James Moore and The Anointed Pace Sisters.”
After briefly attending Georgia State University, Ryan successfully auditioned for the gospel musical A Good Man Is Hard to Find (Part 2). In 1998, he joined the cast of I Know I’ve Been Changed, written and directed by Tyler Perry. Ryan went to New York with this production and performed to sold-out crowds at the Beacon Theatre.

He soon joined the resident cast of the Motown Café on West 57th Street where he performed Detroit soul favorites by the Four Tops and Marvin Gaye. Later he found another steady gig with a group that played music from the fifties and sixties. In 2004, Ryan was recruited into the Fabulous Soul Shakers, a vocal group specializing in classic soul and doo-wop. Two years later, along with guitarist Johnny Gale and percussionist Jimmy Bralower, he recorded “Do the 45” and “I Found a Love.” The collaboration proved to be heaven-sent.

Ryan delivers every song with the kind of emotional commitment and vocal panache that have nearly vanished from the mainstream musical landscape. Onstage, he brings it all together with a combination of Southern warmth and New York vitality. Using a small rhythm section and two male backing vocalists, he effectively reproduces the sound of his album while stretching some tunes into full-on vocal rave-ups. Ryan’s thrilling voice and charismatic presence are all he needs to win an audience. There’s no posturing or mindless booty-shaking, no need for contrived antics: Ryan Shaw is the real deal.

The strength of his own writing shows that Ryan Shaw isn’t just a great singer,” Bralower says. “He’s a real artist. He’s got something to say, and he’s going to be around for a long, long time.

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