State Theatre New Jersey


Interview with Marc Uys Executive Director of Princeton Symphony Orchestra

Marc Uys, who is the Executive Director of Princeton Symphony Orchestra, chats with All Access about their upcoming BRAVO Percussion Ensemble performance at our Milk & Cookies Series on March 7 at 10am and 12pm, sharing the magic of percussion to young audiences, and so much more.

read the transcribed interview below

with Kelly from All Access and special guest Marc Uys, Executive Director of Princeton Symphony Orchestra

Kelly: And we're back on All Access with State Theatre New Jersey! I'm your host, Kelly Blithe! We are so very excited to bring the next program for our Milk & Cookies series. That is Princeton Symphony Orchestra's BRAVO Percussion Ensemble on Saturday, March 7. There are two shows 10am and 12pm. With us to talk about theis lovely performances coming up on March 7 is Executive Director of Princeton Symphony Orchestra, Marc Uys. Welcome Marc Uys!

Marc: Hi! Thank you so much for having me on the show.

Kelly: Yes! We are so excited. We have worked with you guys before, with the BRAVO Percussion Ensemble, so for those who have never experienced this, tell us what it's all about and what they can expect to see on Saturday, March 7.

Marc: This is really an extension of our education programs. What we're going to be seeing on March 7 is the Percussion Ensemble, that throughout the year, visits elementary schools to give students, usually grade 4, a sense of what these instruments are, how they make a sound, what they do, and how they fit in the orchestra. More importantly, how they fit in every day life. We don't realize it, but music is all around us, all the time, especially percussive sounds. They are just one of four ensembles that do this throughout the year. We also have the other instrument families represented; strings, winds, and brass. That is something that is very important to us, to give young people an opportunity to meet these instruments up close, and to meet professional musicians who can help them understand what the role of the different instruments are. But, it's not only interesting and education for young people, it's really a wonderful family outing. We would really like to present the same program for a mixed audience of all ages. We'd like to say it's suitable for children, aged 9-99, and what you can expect is probably more things that can be hit or banged than you've ever seen in one place at a time. You can hear a lot of familiar tunes and discover what some of those really special sounds in the orchestra are, how they're made, what the different instruments are that make them, and including some very interesting little devices that make some of the famous sounds that we hear in cartoons.

Kelly: Right, right. I think this is really interesting because when people think, or when children think orchestra, they go right to the strings. They think of violins and cellos, and yeah the percussion's there, but to introduce them to the different instruments that make up the percussion, I think that is really cool. And, of course, kids love loud sounds.

Marc: Absolutely! Especially if you think of animated cartoons from decades ago, when you think of the Looney Tunes, all of the soundtracks were played by an orchestra. But, all of the sound effects come from the percussion department. So they have to have different tricks, toys, and devices to make all of those different sounds.

Kelly: Yeah, that's how I got my education on music, through Looney Tunes cartoons! Whenever Bugs Bunny was doing something bad or good, the sounds would follow, that was the introduction. I love that you guys are going out into the community and you're having the kids meet the assortment of drums, symbols, chimes. You said something about the little instruments that you hear in the cartoons, what are those little instruments?

Marc: All kinds of different shaker things, or whistles, it can be almost anything. One of the interesting things about a percussion section it really is like the "hold-all" for all those extra instruments that no one else has spare hands to play. One of the things you observe with this ensemble is how much they have to cover and how they run from one instrument to the next, and really how demanding that is. As grown-ups, one of the things that is so impressive is to see how these musicians switch from one type of sound production to another, and often playing multiple parts of a piece at the same time.

Kelly: Nice. You are the Executive Director of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, but you were Manager of Artistic Operations before you were promoted in 2015. So, you're about to hit your five years as Executive Director? Very interesting. What I find interesting on your resume is that you oversaw this series, the education BRAVO programs. Your numbers back then were impressive, and I'm sure they are now, what are some of the students and schools that you reach?

Marc: We get somewhere between 35 and 40 schools each year, with a total of close to 100 separate presentations by the various ensembles. Throughout those presentations we reach between 6,000-7,000 students each year. The final portion of the whole program is in May, at the end of each season, we present free concerts at an auditorium in Princeton with a full orchestra. All of the kids who have received these presentations at each of their schools come and join us at Richardson to see the different families working together. That's their chance to identify all the instruments they've encountered throughout the year and see them in the context of the orchestra.

Kelly: I love it. I love the community work that you guys are doing, and of course, being apart of the State Theatre's Milk & Cookies series. We are talking with Marc Uys, the Executive Director of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra. The Princeton Symphony Orchestra BRAVO Percussion Ensemble will be here for Milk & Cookies for Saturday, March 7 at 10am and 12pm. You can get your tickets at The people who perform in the BRAVO Percussion ensemble, are also part of the orchestra? Do they take turns being in the percussion ensemble?

Marc: That's correct. We have a combination. Some of our BRAVO musicians are people who have actually retired from the orchestra, and have been focusing on education. Others are current members of the orchestra. So, it's a combination of the two. Usually when children come to see the orchestra they'll recognize some of those faces. I just wanted to add that you don't need to be a child, or even have a child, to come on March 7 to have a good time. As I said, this is really for children of all ages, that includes those of us in double digits. It's fun and educational for anyone.

Kelly: Great! I love that you're all ages! I just might be there now. Awesome. Marc, before you go, and thank you for being on All Access, do you want to talk about how people can get more information on Princeton Symphony Orchestra and the BRAVO Percussion Ensemble? Do you have any websites or social media?

Marc: Yes, absolutely. Information about the percussion ensemble, all of BRAVO, and all that we do, can be found on our website, which is We also have of course, our social media accounts. We are on Facebook and Instagram. Sometimes it's fun to look at all the photos because we do these ensembles, but we also have our famous petting zoos that we do at community events around town. Those are opportunities for again, children of all ages, to come and actually handle an instrument and have a chance to try and play it themselves and see what it's like to make a sound. Those ones certainly produce fun photos, so those can be found on our Flickr account sorted out by different events. All of those social media accounts can be accessed through our website as well.

Kelly: Awesome, I love it. Thank you, Marc Uys, Executive Director of Princeton Symphony Orchestra, for being on today's All Access. We look forward to seeing the Princeton Symphony BRAVO Percussion Ensemble on Saturday, March 7, as part of our Milk & Cookies series!

Marc: Thank you so much, and I will see you there!

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