Press Release • May 23, 2017


Philadelphia, PA (May 23, 2017) — The new Philly POPS BIG Band will perform its first two shows on July 4 during the Wawa Welcome America Festival. At 10 a.m., the ensemble will play at the City of Philadelphia’s July 4 Celebration of Freedom ceremony and parade on Independence Mall. At 7 p.m., the BIG Band will open the city’s Wawa Welcome America July 4th Concert and fireworks show on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. NBC10 and Telemundo62 will televise both performances.

“I’m excited to introduce Philadelphia to our new BIG Band,” said Frank Giordano, President and CEO, The Philly POPS. “Performing during the Wawa Welcome America festival is a highlight of our year and we’re honored to be featured in three events.”

In the evening concert, the BIG Band will play a mix of pop, jazz, Latin, and patriotic favorites. The band will feature guest vocalists Hamilton star Mandy Gonzalez, Tony DeSare – a POPS regular – and Philly-native Luis Figueroa, an American Idol contestant who is currently signed to Marc Anthony’s label. Three University of the Arts graduates will join as back-up singers. The BIG Band will open the July 4 concert on the Parkway before Mary J. Blige takes the stage. The band will return for a grand finale at the end of the evening before the fireworks.

Highlights from the 7 p.m. show:
“Star Spangled Banner”
“This Land is Your Land” (arrangement by POPS saxophonist Ron Kerber) featuring Mandy
“Vivir Mi Vida” by Marc Anthony featuring Mandy and Luis, performed in Spanish
“Uptown Funk” featuring Tony and Mandy
“Come Together” by The Beatles, featuring Tony

About the BIG Band:
The Philly POPS BIG Band is composed of 18 musicians – five saxophones, five trumpets, four trombones, a drum set, a piano, a guitar, and bass. The BIG Band plays swing, ragtime and jazz in the style of the Count Basie Orchestra and Harry James Band, but has expanded its repertoire into all kinds of popular music from Latin to blues and rock. The Philly POPS BIG Band members were chosen for their passion for popular music. Each is also a teaching artist, adept at instructing the next generation of musicians.

Philly POPS principal trumpet Matt Gallagher leads the BIG Band. Matt is chair of the Trumpet department at University of the Arts and director of its “Z” Big Band. He’s performed with Broadway show productions, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Boston Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, Aretha Franklin, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Bernadette Peters, the O’Jays, NFL Films, and recently recorded for Celine Dion, Jennifer Lopez, R. Kelly, Jennifer Hudson and LL Cool J.

BIG Band members:

Saxophone: Ron Kerber, Anthony Nigro, Chris Farr, Greg Riley, Mark Allen
Trumpet: Matt Gallagher, Dave DiValentino, Dan Wright, George Rabbai
Trombone: Randy Kapralick, Jarred Antonacci, Paul Arbogast, Dave Cianci
Rhythm: Sam Riessen (Guitar), – Dean Schneider (morning only) (Piano), Steve Beskrone (Bass), Joe Nero (Drums), Dave Nelson (evening only) (Percussion), Arturo Stable (evening only) (Latin Percussion)

The full Philly POPS orchestra will perform its annual free concert at Independence Hall on July 3 at 7 p.m. Music Director Michael Krajewski and the 65-piece orchestra will perform a patriotic, entertaining show featuring guest artists Tony DeSare and Mandy Gonzalez. POPS on Independence has become a Philadelphia tradition enjoyed by 15,000 area residents and visitors each year.

These Independence Weekend concerts are the keystone of the POPS’s Salute Series – events held on major U.S. holidays that honor the American tradition of service and bring POPS performances into the community.

About the Guest Artists

Mandy Gonzalez is currently starring in Hamilton on Broadway as Angelica Schuyler. She created the role of Nina Rosario in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights and starred as Elphaba in the Broadway production of Wicked. Mandy performed with the POPS in 2015’s Susan G. Komen Strength & Survival concert, where she wowed the crowd by singing “Let It Go” from Frozen in Spanish.

Tony DeSare has been a POPS fan favorite since his performance in 2015’s American Songbook: Then and Now. Named a Rising Star Male Vocalist in Downbeat magazine, DeSare has lived up to this distinction by winning critical and popular acclaim for his concert performances throughout North America from Carnegie Hall to Las Vegas headlining with Don Rickles. DeSare has three top ten Billboard jazz albums under his belt and has been featured on the CBS Early Show, NPR, A Prairie Home Companion, the Today Show and his music has been posted by social media celebrity juggernaut, George Takei.

About the Salute Series
The Philly POPS Salute Series encourages recognition of service and commitment through an expanding set of events and activities—each transformative moments of celebration for our community. Salute performances recognize the service and sacrifice of those dedicated to a collective identity of American values and tradition. Salute Series activities continue throughout the rest of the year with concerts held on American holidays. Both the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia partner with the POPS on Salute Series events. The Salute Series is made possible by the support of Presenting Sponsor Comcast NBCUniversal, Major Sponsors EisnerAmper and The Templeton Foundation, PARX Casino, Key Bank, Visit Philly, PHLCVB, and PECO and many other private donors. To learn more, visit

About The Philly POPS
The Philly POPS, the largest standalone pops orchestra in the United States, delights audiences with the inspired performance of American popular music. The POPS celebrates this distinctive musical heritage through an expanding repertoire of innovative concert presentations and a robust set of educational and engagement initiatives.

Now in its 38th season, the official POPS orchestra of Pennsylvania serves a consistently growing audience of over 100,000 annually. Music Director Michael Krajewski and the 65-piece Philly POPS orchestra keeps listeners tapping their toes to an impressive repertoire of songs from American traditions of music up through today’s chart toppers.

Outside the concert hall, Salute Series performances – including POPS on Independence on July 3 and the I’ll Be Home for Christmas: A Salute to the Military and First Responders – celebrate the American tradition of service around important national holidays; POPS in Schools enhances music education for Philadelphia School District students; and POPS Outside brings POPS music to local communities.

The Philly POPS performs as a founding resident company of The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, and at venues throughout the mid-Atlantic region.