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Milwaukee Talks: Doc Severinsen

Doc Severinsen is a legend. For 25 years he served as the bandleader on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson. Now he tours the country with his band, Doc Severinsen and His Big Band, in addition to conducting symphonies around the country.

Of course, here in Milwaukee we know Doc as the Principal Pops Conductor. This weekend, he will lead the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts in an annual holiday concert.

Doc took a few minutes off from his busy schedule to talk with us about the Milwaukee Pops, what he likes about Milwaukee, what he wants for Christmas and more.

OMC: Your holiday show has become a Milwaukee tradition. Can you tell us about it?

DS: We try to include the Milwaukee Symphonic Chorus, Children's Chorus and our bell ringers, and I think that is all adds to the Orchestra in such a way that we get excitement out of the holiday music. We play the kind of music that can become a tradition because the music itself is already a tradition. We just give it our own particular treatment.

OMC: When did you start in Milwaukee as the Pops Conductor?

DS: I have no idea. It's been a few years, but I don't keep track of time.

OMC: What were your impressions of Milwaukee before you started working here?

DS: Of course I knew Milwaukee before I started with the orchestra because I'd been associated with a company down here in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. And I'd spent quite a bit of time in Milwaukee. I'd played with the orchestra before. I always felt that is was the kind of city I'd like to go to and work on a regular basis because there's an audience for good music here. There's a certain European tradition and style that seems to have emerged here.

OMC: What do you like to do here when you're not working?

DS: Well I have good friends here so I visit with them. I go out to Kopp's and get my ice cream and hamburger. I have various places that I like to eat which I won't mention because if I do a commercial for one and not the other then I won't get good food at every place. And I like to go to the gym and work out. I have a place to stay here that's as close to my own home as could possibly be.

OMC: You travel an awful lot with your band and conducting various symphonies. What keeps you doing it?

DS: Just because I like to do it. I'm not doing it anymore because I have to or need to. I'm doing it because this is what I love to do.

OMC: Besides music, what are your other loves in life?

DS: Animals. My wife and I have a couple of horses that I'm very fond of. I like to just go out and play with them a little bit. I've got my studio situated right next to the barn so I don't have very far to go.

OMC: What types of music do you listen to at home? Who are some of your favorite artists?

DS: I listen to classical and jazz. I would leave some friends out if I said one name over another. I like all kinds of kinds of classical music. My favorite composer is Mahler. In jazz, I listen to all different kinds of things and all different kinds of instruments and composers. I especially like Duke Ellington's band.

OMC: Do you ever chat with Johnny Carson?

DS: I haven't talked to him in some time now. He's busy getting his boat ready.

OMC: What would you like for Christmas this year?

DS: I'm not going to be trite and say world peace. But that would be kind of a nice present for all of us. I'm afraid we won't get it this Christmas. I think just being with my wife and family would be the best present that I could get.

OMC: Are there any unique holiday traditions in your household?

DS: Yes. We eat only Italian food.

For ticket information call (414) 273- 7206. Tickets are still available for Sunday's 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. shows.


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