Skip to Main Content

Teddy Abrams

Teddy Abrams

Bill speaks with the Music Director of The Louisville Orchestra, Teddy Abrams.
Season 10 Episode 17 Length 28:01 Premiere: 03/21/15

Louisville Orchestra’s Teddy Abrams: Keeping the Music Relevant

These days, leading a major American orchestra involves more than donning a tuxedo and marshaling the collective talents of a stage full of musicians under one baton.

“I spend about 5 percent of my time actually conducting,” says Louisville Orchestra Music Director Teddy Abrams. “The rest of the time, it is marketing, it is administrative work, it’s strategy, it is development – it is all the work that goes into making a successful corporation.”

That’s a lot of responsibility for an acclaimed conductor and composer who hasn’t even reached his 30th birthday. But Abrams simply sees it as what he needs to do to help ensure the orchestra – and classical music in general – remain a vital part of life in Louisville. He talked about his work on KET’s One to One with Bill Goodman.

Reviving a Legacy
This season marks Abrams debut as the eighth and youngest music director for the Louisville Orchestra. And he brings a wealth of experience to the podium. Abrams has conducted the San Francisco Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Indianapolis Symphony, the MAV Symphony Orchestra in Budapest, among many others.

But Louisville presented some unique challenges. Financial problems and a protracted labor dispute between Louisville Orchestra management and the musicians’ union led to a bankruptcy filing and cancellation of the 2011 – 2012 season.

“[We’re] working extremely hard to completely reshape the idea of what music and what an orchestra can be right now in a community,” says Abrams. “We’re blowing open all the definitions and all the assumptions, and trying to create a vital orchestra that is very much a deep part of everyday life in the community – something that the Louisville Orchestra had not been for a long time, but does have a legacy and history of doing just that.”

A Fight for Relevancy
Abrams says many orchestras and arts groups across the country have faced similar financial problems in recent years. He contends cultural organizations must reinvent and redefine themselves in ways that make them relevant to everyone in their community.

“We realized that to be a successful arts organization, you have to do a lot more than just what you’ve been doing, and you have to do a lot more than simply preserving something,” Abrams explains. “You have to show that you are alive and that you’re meaningful to people’s lives on a daily basis.”

For Abrams, that means taking himself and other musicians out in the community to perform at small, sometimes unexpected venues like local coffee shops. The orchestra also recently featured a pops concert with singer-songwriter Ben Folds. Abrams contends that holding tight to the old notions of a prim and proper concert hall are a recipe for failure.

“I think all the musicians… wanted somebody to come in and say, “Look, we’re going to try things. Not all of them will work, but we’re going to try and we’re going to experiment,’” Abrams says “And they have been incredibly supportive of that.”

Ensuring a Future for Music and Musicians
Abrams attributes his drive to become a conductor to a free outdoor concert he saw as a 9-year old in San Francisco. While he enjoyed the performance, Abrams says he was even more amazed by how the conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas, brought the entire community together to enjoy the music.

The next day, Abrams wrote a fan letter to Thomas and asked for conducting lessons. Soon the young Abrams was studying under Thomas. He says that life-changing event inspired him to make sure others get an opportunity to enjoy music in ways that connects with their life experiences.

In addition to his duties with the Louisville Orchestra, Abrams is an assistant and guest conductor for a number of other ensembles, and he’s an active soloist (he plays piano and clarinet) and accomplished composer. But Abrams says he’s aware that he has a greater responsibility to the music, which he says includes aspects of marketing, development, and community outreach.

“We need arts leaders that are not just good at doing the art. They need to be advocates for the art,” Abrams says. “I love making music… and I recognize that without all the other elements of it, I’m not going to have an opportunity to make music or, even worse, the next generation after me will not have an opportunity to make music.”

amgrad3KET’s education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Sponsored by:

You give every Kentuckian the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through KET.

SummerPledge logo with a DONATE NOW button.SummerPledge logo with a DONATE NOW button.

TV Schedules


No upcoming airdates


No recent airdates

Season 10 Episodes

Jeff Smith and Jonathan Miller

S10 E53 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 12/27/15

Economic Boom for Kentucky Bourbon

S10 E52 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 12/20/15

Steve Beshear Reflects on Service

S10 E51 Length 28:46 Premiere Date 12/13/15

Dr. R. Albert Mohler

S10 E50 Length 28:00 Premiere Date 11/22/15

Governor-elect Matt Bevin

S10 E49 Length 29:03 Premiere Date 11/15/15

Kentucky Life Host Doug Flynn

S10 E48 Length 28:26 Premiere Date 11/08/15

Al Cross on the 2015 Election

S10 E47 Length 28:32 Premiere Date 11/01/15

Trey Grayson

S10 E46 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 10/11/15

Tony Kemper of the de Paul School

S10 E45 Length 27:26 Premiere Date 10/04/15

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth

S10 E44 Length 28:27 Premiere Date 09/27/15

David Gregory on His Journey of Faith

S10 E43 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 09/20/15

U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie

S10 E42 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 09/13/15

Sen. Mitch McConnell

S10 E41 Length 28:37 Premiere Date 09/05/15

Education Chief Reflects on Service

S10 E39 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 08/23/15

Making the Case for Higher Academic Standards

S10 E38 Length 28:11 Premiere Date 08/15/15

Emily Bingham Discusses Aunt's Biography

S10 E36 Length 28:31 Premiere Date 08/01/15

Personalized Cancer Treatment

S10 E35 Length 28:21 Premiere Date 07/25/15

Stu Silberman and Brigitte Blom Ramsey

S10 E34 Length 28:07 Premiere Date 07/18/15

Coding - Part 2

S10 E33 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 07/11/15

Scott Terrell on the Lexington Philharmonic

S10 E30 Length 28:21 Premiere Date 06/20/15

Jane Chu and Lori Meadows Discuss Kentucky Arts

S10 E29 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 06/13/15

Giving Voice to Kentucky Women

S10 E28 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 06/06/15

The Heroin Epidemic in Kentucky

S10 E26 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 05/23/15

Al Cross Discusses May 2015 Primary

S10 E25 Length 28:00 Premiere Date 05/16/15

Immigration Laws in Louisville

S10 E24 Length 28:17 Premiere Date 05/09/15

Cameron Ludwick and Blair Hess

S10 E23 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 05/02/15

Len Peters Discusses the EPA

S10 E22 Length 27:46 Premiere Date 04/25/15

Kim Baker Discusses the Arts

S10 E21 Length 28:56 Premiere Date 04/18/15

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Dr. Alison Davis

S10 E20 Length 27:46 Premiere Date 04/11/15

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz

S10 E19 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 04/04/15

Dr. Mark Evers

S10 E18 Length 27:11 Premiere Date 03/28/15

Teddy Abrams

S10 E17 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 03/21/15

Dr. Robert Davies

S10 E16 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 02/22/15

Brad Jones: Black Walls Turn Gray

S10 E15 Length 28:12 Premiere Date 02/15/15

SOAR Executive Director Jared Arnett

S10 E14 Length 28:16 Premiere Date 02/08/15

University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto

S10 E13 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 02/01/15

Rep. Andy Barr: One to One from Washington

S10 E12 Length 28:22 Premiere Date 02/04/15

Rep. Thomas Massie: One to One from Washington

S10 E11 Length 28:06 Premiere Date 02/03/15

Rep. John Yarmuth: One to One from Washington

S10 E10 Length 27:41 Premiere Date 02/02/15

Rep. Brett Guthrie: One to One from Washington

S10 E9 Length 28:46 Premiere Date 01/30/15

Rep. Ed Whitfield: One to One from Washington

S10 E8 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 01/29/15

Rep. Hal Rogers: One to One from Washington

S10 E7 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 01/28/15

Sen. Rand Paul: One to One from Washington

S10 E6 Length 27:31 Premiere Date 01/27/15

Sen. Mitch McConnell: One to One from Washington

S10 E5 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 01/26/15

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell

S10 E4 Length 28:06 Premiere Date 01/06/15

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers

S10 E3 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 01/18/15

Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo

S10 E2 Length 28:21 Premiere Date 01/11/15

Gov. Steve Beshear

S10 E1 Length 28:41 Premiere Date 12/26/14

Explore KET