The American Festival Pops Orchestra (AFPO) performance at the Hylton Center on May 14th marks the end of Founding Maestro Anthony Maiello’s amazing run as its Music Director/Conductor after twelve glorious years on the podium, making music of the highest caliber and spreading his own deep love of this art form with players, singers, composers, arrangers, and, perhaps most vividly, with audiences. It’s wonderful that Tony’s last concert as AFPO’s director is happening at the Hylton Center, since the orchestra made its debut as part of the Center’s grand opening in May, 2010 – and it has become one of our most beloved and popular attractions every year since then (well, almost every year, if you know what I mean).
I’ve had the honor and pleasure (and frankly, good fortune) to perform with AFPO under Tony’s baton as a singer (a few times) and more often as a narrator, in that stirring Randol Bass orchestration of “The Night Before Christmas” and, most recently, as the editor who penned the immortal letter, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” set by our great Mason alum Vincent Oppido. I mention these experiences with a bit of a tingle up my spine, because unless you’ve been lucky enough to stand right in front of a full professional symphony orchestra, it’s hard to convey the visceral thrill of all that music coursing through you on its way to the auditorium. It’s plenty thrilling out where you sit, too, but oh my goodness.
I mention this also because of something important about Tony’s aforementioned baton. He often starts a rehearsal in conversation with the orchestra about the making of music. “See this?” he says, holding up his conductor’s stick for all to see, and moving it back and forth. “Hear anything? No music, is there? No music. The music comes from you." Then he proceeds to use that same silent stick to draw forth, with energy and passion, waves of sumptuous sound. That combination of real humility and fierce commitment typifies Tony’s approach to making and teaching music, and so much else that he does in our world, like building a first-class orchestra and being one of the generative forces of Mason’s music program for the better part of four decades.
Something tells me that the AFPO podium will entertain return visits from our soon-to-be Maestro Emeritus, but until then, please join me in thanking Tony for his infectious energy, abundant charm, and most of all for the music.
Dean and Executive Director