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Steven Reineke is a self-professed Ohio boy at heart. But he’s found a new home on center stage at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
And when he steps into the spotlight in October to begin his second season as music director of The New York Pops, Reineke will sport a sophisticated new look.
“I need all the help I can get [dressing,]” said Reineke with a chuckle. “I’ve become much more aware of fashion in this city and I enjoy looking good.”
So earlier this summer, Reineke visited the Hickey Freeman showroom to be fitted with two custom-made tuxedos, one classic and the other with tails, as well as some traditional suits and sport coats for his public appearances.
Last year, he wore his own Ralph Lauren tuxedo and tails by Armani, not shabby by any means, but the custom experience really wowed him. “I’ve never had clothes made specifically for me before,” he said.
Although the season won’t kick off until Oct. 15, he said the custom wardrobe is already having an effect on his psyche. “When you walk onstage and feel like a million bucks, you perform at the top of your game.”
Reineke has been at the pinnacle of his field for several years now. In addition to fronting the Pops, the largest independent pops orchestra in the country, he serves as principal pops conductor of the Long Beach and Modesto Symphony Orchestras and associate conductor of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, where for 15 years he served as a composer, arranger and conducting protégé under the late conductor Erich Kunzel. “Erich was my mentor,” Reineke said. “He taught me everything I know.”
Trained as a trumpet player, Reineke taught himself to play the piano “to get tunes out of my head. And that led to my being a conductor.” He has created more than 100 orchestral arrangements for the Cincinnati Pops and is also an established symphonic composer. In 2008, he came to the attention of the New York Pops chief executive officer James Johnson, who was searching for a successor to the group’s late conductor, Skitch Henderson. Reineke signed on as a guest conductor of the New York Pops 25th anniversary gala, but didn’t realize it was an audition.
“I didn’t know I was on anybody’s radar,” he said. “But it went well and James and I really hit it off. He told me later that he’d been looking for somebody for three years and he knew in 30 seconds that it was me.”
The appointment “really changed my life. To be able to perform at Carnegie Hall and have the opportunity to move to New York City has been a dream come true.”
Michele Colonna, director of marketing and creative services for Hickey Freeman’s parent, the HMX Group, called Reineke a “perfect match” for the brand. “These are two institutions with a wealth of heritage. They’re both American treasures.”
Hickey president Mike Cohen said the brand will be credited on the Pops Web site and in the Carnegie Hall programs during the season. It will also be featured prominently in the group’s e-newsletter and in a video on its Web site showing the fitting process for Reineke’s wardrobe. And because the conductor still travels around the country to other venues, the brand will get exposure throughout the U.S.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about brand-building and finding an interesting way to tell a story,” Cohen said. “By showing an artist and his relationship to his craft, we’ve done that.”