The RPO's 96th season will include music from the classic repertoire, as well as programming aimed at the family. We sit down with music director Ward Stare and Curt Long, the new CEO.

Our conversation includes the criticism that some orchestras have received for not featuring enough music by women and people of color -- something the RPO says it is addressing this season. Our guests:

Webster native Kate Lee won a Grammy award in 2017 as part of the O'Connor Band, which won for Best Bluegrass Album. Lee has become a standout lead vocalist and violinist, and she plays alongside her husband Forrest O'Connor.

They're in Rochester this week, giving lessons to Webster students, and playing a concert on Friday night at the Eastman theater. But first, they're our guests on Connections.

You can find videos of the O'Connor Band here

Whatever happened to Obama-era pop music? According to the New Yorker, it's already dated, even embarrassing. Matthew Trammell argues that music reflects the cultural and political mood, and already pop music has moved on from the buoyant, fizzy hits like Katy Perry's "Firework." Is that fair?

Our guests discuss the ways music does, and does not, capture the current mood. In studio:

An upcoming multimedia performance at The Little Theatre will tackle a number of social themes. Danielle Ponder is the lead singer of Danielle Ponder and the Tomorrow People, and on December 1, she and her band will introduce audience members to places and experiences that have inspired Ponder in her work as a storyteller, and also as a public defender. The performance, called "For the Love of Justice," will explore issues related to feminism, criminal justice, personal liberation, and racial justice, all under the theme of love.

We preview the concert and discuss the experiences that inspired it. In studio:

  • Danielle Ponder, criminal defense attorney and lead singer of Danielle Ponder and the Tomorrow People
  • Doug Ackley, executive director of Teen Empowerment
  • Marcus Cooper, cyclist who works in sales at Park Ave Bike Shop, and an emcee

In modern media, success usually means following up with the same thing that brought success. Music, television -- think about why the characters on Friends only became caricatures of themselves. But 25 years ago, a band went against the popular grain.

R.E.M. had found massive commercial success with their 1991 hits like "Stand" and "Shiny Happy People." Suddenly, just as popular as Madonna, the band had a chance to fire off more and similar hits. But their 1992 album, Automatic for the People, is one of the darker pop albums of the era. Songs about suicide prevention and tragedy were not exactly what the producers were hoping for, but the band stayed with their vision. Is there a lesson there? We examine with our guests:

What would it sound like if a number of local musicians all wrote their own versions of a song with the same title? Music fans will be able to hear more than 20 original takes on the title "How Did We Get Here" during a special concert next week at Hochstein Performance Hall. It's part of an event appropriately titled, "If All Rochester Wrote the Same Song."

We preview some of those versions and talk about the song writing process with our guests. In studio:

It's Christmas...in October! It may seem early to be listening to Christmas music, but perhaps it would be something George Eastman would do. The philanthropist is known for his love of music and often listened to his pipe organ while eating breakfast, reading newspapers, or meeting with business associates.

A new album called "An Eastman Christmas" includes 24 holiday tunes played on Eastman's Aeolian pipe organ. It's part of the upcoming holiday celebrations at the Eastman Museum.

We listen to some music and discuss how Eastman's legacy continues to impact the Rochester community. In studio:

  • Jack Garner, retired national film critic for Gannett Newspapers, passionate Eastman supporter, and recipient of the Eastman Medal
  • Bonnie Garner, president of the George Eastman Museum Council and museum trustee
  • Joe Blackburn, George Eastman Museum volunteer organist featured in "An Eastman Christmas," and leading authority on the Aeolian pipe organ
  • Kathy Connor, curator of the legacy collection at the George Eastman Museum

The Rochester Gay Men's Chorus is celebrating 35 years of performances and community activism. The group promotes social change and LGBTQ pride through the choral arts.

We listen to some music and talk to members about how the group has fostered change through its grassroots efforts.

  • Ted Smith, board chair for the Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus
  • Thomas Warfield, Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus alumnus    
  • Robert Strauss, artistic director of the Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus
  • John Williams, longtime supporter of the Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus

The winner of NPR's 2016 Tiny Desk Concert is a remarkable musician from Duluth, Minnesota named Gaelynn Lea. Lea is a classically trained fiddler whose music includes Celtic and American fiddle traditions. Her submission, Someday We'll Linger in the Sun, was the judges' unanimous choice. If you watch Lea's video, you'll notice that she plays her violin in a style that you might not expect -- she holds it in front of herself, like a cello.

Lea has brittle bone disease, and when she fell in love with the cello as a young student, it was difficult for her to hold it. A teacher noticed, was inspired by Lea's gift for music, and helped her learn how to play the violin in the same style. Now, Lea plays solo shows and with her band. She's also a teacher and an advocate for people with disabilities. 

We talk to Lea about her music, her success, and about how to make all stages accessible to everyone.  She'll be in Rochester for a performance and talk at Nazareth College, but first, she joins us on Connections. Our guests:

Rock legend Tom Petty died on Monday, and this hour, we talk about his life and work. Petty has been acclaimed for his “rootsiness,” even though he performed in sold out arenas. His songs have been praised for being soaring and sad. 

How should we define Tom Petty's musical legacy? We listen to some of his music and discuss that question with our guests:

  • John Covach, director of the Institute for Popular Music at the University of Rochester
  • Dave Drago, producer and owner of 1809 Studios
  • Saby Reyes-Kulkarni, music journalist
  • Sarah Hart, Tom Petty fan and “American Girl”