Uplifting music we need right now, from the APO and a starry cast

PBS to share with the nation an exhilarating American Pops Orchestra program called 'We Are Family: Songs of Hope and Unity.'

DC’s own American Pops Orchestra (APO), under the baton of Maestro Luke Frazier, will bring to the nation a program of musical uplift, joy, and comfort that could not be more pitch perfect for these times. Called We Are Family: Songs of Hope and Unity, the show will be broadcast Friday, May 14, 2021, on PBS, PBS.org, and the PBS Video App (viewers in the DMV can catch it on WETA at 10 pm ET) and remain available until June 11.

Nova Payton performing the disco power anthem ‘I Will Survive.’ Photo by Kevin Parisi/American Pops Orchestra, Inc.

Filmed in front of a small, socially distanced live audience under strict COVID-mitigation procedures at the Meridian International Center in DC, the program is part of #PBSForTheArts and features performances by Broadway star and recording artist Morgan James; star of Season 14 of The Voice Rayshun LaMarr; Broadway and Tony Award–nominated star Laura Osnes; celebrated recording artist Nova Y. Payton; and Broadway and television star Gabrielle Ruiz (joining from Los Angeles). The televised event will be hosted by Emmy and Tony Award winner Judith Light.

“Music is an extraordinary tool that has the unique ability to bring us together,” said Frazier. “It also has the special power of healing and uniting—and I believe there is no better time for us to do that than now. “We Are Family includes iconic American music hits such as ‘You’ve Got a Friend,’ ‘America the Beautiful,’ ‘Light of the Clear Blue Morning,’ ‘A Change Is Gonna Come,’ ‘I Will Survive,’ and more. It’s not just a soundtrack of music we’ve come to know and love; it’s the music we need to hear now.”

We Are Family: Songs of Hope and Unity will stream simultaneously with broadcast and be available on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Samsung Smart TV and Chromecast.

Laura Osnes performing the Carol King classic ‘You’ve Got a Friend,’ Maestro Luke Frazier conducting. Photo by Kevin Parisi/American Pops Orchestra, Inc.

#PBSFortheArts is a multiplatform campaign that celebrates the resiliency of the arts in America during the COVID-19 shutdown and reopening and features new performing arts content filmed within the constraints of the pandemic. The collection of #PBSForTheArts programs will be available for broadcast on PBS and streaming on pbs.org/arts and the PBS Video app. Curated conversation and digital shorts will be available on PBS social media platforms using #PBSForTheArts.

About the American Pops Orchestra

APO was founded in 2015 with a mission to breathe new life into orchestral pops programming and inspire diverse audiences to discover the wealth of the material in the Great American Songbook in dynamic new ways. Seeing an opportunity to challenge the status-quo of the repertoire an orchestra performs, Founder and Music Director, Luke Frazier, created The American Pops with the intent of breaking the mold of the traditional pops orchestra. This new, distinctly “American” orchestra brings together versatile musicians and reimagined programming focused around the Great American Songbook, and presents it with an approachable, fresh spin in order to engage diverse audiences. Through non-traditional orchestral settings, APO aims to deliver popular American classics to those who already know and love them, while also introducing these timeless pieces to younger generations in approachable settings. To learn more, visit TheAmericanPops.org.

Rayshun LaMarr reminding us that ‘We Are Family.’ Photo by Kevin Parisi/American Pops Orchestra, Inc.

About Luke Frazier, Music Director and Conductor

Maestro Luke Frazier. Photo by Kevin Parisi/American Pops Orchestra, Inc.

Growing up in West Virginia and spending most of his career in New York City and Washington, D.C., Luke knows the breadth of audiences that can have their lives changed by music of all kinds. A classically trained pianist and conductor, Luke spends every day focusing not only on musical excellence but also about using music as a tool to connect people from all walks of life. Gone are the days of programming and conducting in a vacuum—the arts today are about the communities we serve and the patrons both existing ones and those yet to be reached. This philosophy has led Luke to be a pioneer in how, where, and what orchestras perform. This commitment to innovation led Luke to start The American Pops Orchestra in 2015 to serve as an artistic model of this thinking. In Luke’s shows, it’s not uncommon to hear pop singers, classical musicians and television stars all in the same program. Each concert, whether it be with his own APO or another orchestra around the country, is curated as an opportunity to highlight music, particularly American Popular Music. This music that we’ve created together can be used as a rallying point in our collective lives. Luke crafts each concert with a dramatic arc featuring both innovative and classic arrangements to keep both audiences and artists engaged at every measure.

Luke is lucky to call many of the world’s most acclaimed artists, friends and collaborators. These friendships include Renée Fleming, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Patti Labelle, Kelli O’Hara, Juanes, Wynton Marsalis, Rita Moreno, Morgan James, Joshua Bell and so many more have led to concerts all over the country both in iconic venues and to millions of viewers on television. Passionately committed to the next generation of musicians, Luke spends a significant amount of time and resources with all levels of aspiring musicians. Each year APO hosts a free national collegiate vocal competition, hosts instrumental and vocal masterclasses for collegiate musicians, creates original children’s programming of the highest caliber and spends two weeks visiting schools free of charge in some of the poorest regions of our country. Luke believes in the power of music to open new doors for children – In fact, it was an elementary school gymnasium performance which included live musicians that inspired his own career.

To get to know more about Luke, check out @fraziersedge and LukeFrazierMusic.com.

About PBS

PBS, with more than 330 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and digital content. Each month, PBS reaches over 120 million people through television and 26 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. Decades of research confirms that PBS’ premier children’s media service, PBS KIDS, helps children build critical literacy, math and social-emotional skills, enabling them to find success in school and life. Delivered through member stations, PBS KIDS offers high-quality educational content on TV – including a 24/7 channel, online at pbskids.org, via an array of mobile apps and in communities across America. More information about PBS is available at www.pbs.org, one of the leading dot-org websites on the internet, or by following PBS on Twitter, Facebook or through our apps for mobile and connected devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at pbs.org/pressroom or by following PBS Communications on Twitter.


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