When 52-year-old Sarasota Orchestra Principal Pops Director Andrew Lane signed up for shop class in seventh grade, the school administration put him in band, instead, because the shop-class’ roster was full.
The band needed French horn players — so Lane took up playing the instrument.
Three weeks later, a spot in shop class became available. Despite his father’s encouragement to take the spot, Lane decided against switching classes. He had already connected with the horn and stuck with it through middle and high school.
After he won a concerto competition his senior year, Lane’s high school orchestra director, Linda Groh, encouraged him to pursue a career as a professional musician.
“I didn’t think it was reality, and I couldn’t imagine the luxury of (playing) professionally,” he says.
Lane’s father, also named Andrew, was a foreman for a company that made electrical parts; his mother, Frances, was a credit manager at a lumber company. Although both parents had an appreciation for music, they didn’t understand how playing music could become a career.
“That really drove me to want to do it,” Lane says. “I wanted to show them that it was possible to be a professional musician.”
After high school, Lane’s passion led him to audition for University of South Florida’s band as a French horn performance major, and he was accepted into the school. His USF teacher, Ralph Froelich, played principal horn in the Florida West Coast Symphony, now Sarasota Orchestra. Thanks to Froelich, in 1980, Lane played with Sarasota Orchestra, and, then, the next year at Sarasota Music Festival.
In 1986, after his third year of college, Lane moved to Washington, D.C., to play as a paid musician in The United States Navy Band. That was the start of his professional music career. He was 21 years old.
In 1990, he moved to Florida and continued playing professionally for 10 years with Florida Orchestra, in Tampa, and also the Symphony Orchestra, in Orlando.
But in 1994, his passion for music led him to start conducting. For several years, his eyes went straight to one line of the score — the horn part.
He’s now been a conductor for two decades, serving as the music director of the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra in Orlando, where he has been conducting the program of 250, and for the past 10 years, conducting the Sarasota Orchestra Pops series. Starting in 2002, he conducted Sarasota Youth Orchestra for five years.
Lane drives back and forth from Orlando, where he lives, to Sarasota to rehearse with the orchestra a few weeks out of the year.
He considers the musicians in the Sarasota Orchestra colleagues.
“I have this anxiety that I show up, and I have totally forgotten to prepare,” he says about a recurring dream, “and when you’re standing in front of 70 excellent musicians, that’s a pretty scary nightmare.”
When Lane started as the Pops principal director, it was not yet a series, but a few pops concerts throughout the season. He’s watched it grow into a series. This year it doubled in concerts. At first, Lane was concerned about filling double the seats, but, to his relief, the first program in the Pops series, January’s “Bravo Broadway,” came close to selling out and garnered great reviews.
Lane is most looking forward to the Sinatra program, “Ol’ Blue Eyes,” which starts in April, because he says guest artist Michael Andrew is an amazing performer.
Lane thinks highly of the group of musicians he says expertly play a wide variety of music featured in the Pops series.
Lane says each section of the orchestra has its own personality.
The musicians in the brass section are tough because they play the dramatic parts; the woodwinds possess a lot of finesse in life, just like in playing; and the string players are versatile and all-encompassing players who have a broad personality, ranging from light-hearted to dramatic.
His audience also has a particular personality that Lane has come to know.
During the past decade, he has developed a sense of what his audience enjoys. It’s important to Lane that each audience member finds something to connect with in the series — variety is key. As he plans a Pops series, he keeps one question in mind: “Are they going to look at the series and get excited?” He’s sure the series will excite them.
“There’s this feeling that we’re really becoming connected, and we look forward to seeing each other,” Lane says of the audience.
If You Go
‘New Orleans’ Own’
The Pop Series features American musical icons with music from the stages of Broadway and the birthplace of jazz, to anything by Ol’Blue eyes. Mardi Gras comes early with the Sarasota Orchestra’s Pops 2 concert featuring the DUKES of Dixieland playing a variety of ragtime, jazz and blues.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7
Where: Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota
Cost: $32 to $67
Info: Call 953-4252
5 Things you didn’t know
1. Lane has two sons: Chris is a trumpet player in the Coast Guard band, and Alex is a French horn player at Manhattan School of Music.
2. Lane loves working on, fixing up and selling old cars and has since he was in high school. He passed this pastime onto his son, Alex, whom he taught to fix up Camaros.
3. In 1996, Lane became the first general manager of Orlando Philharmonic. He left there in 2010.
4. Lane says the highlight of his career was in 2006, when he conducted The Chicago Symphony featuring Greek tenor Mario Frangoulis.
5. Lane worked for a car dealership upon graduating high school, but hated it and decided to pursue music.