In a two-year span, the symphony has booked rappers Nelly, Common and Wyclef Jean
When rapper Nelly joined the Columbus Symphony Orchestra for “A Night of Symphonic Hip-Hop” back in July 2016, principal percussionist Phil Shipley had a ball. “It was a great time,” Shipley said. “They were shocked I was so into it. … I was jammin' with them. I was playing things off the chart.”
But the greatest compliment came after the show when the rapper's bodyguards sought Shipley out to tell him they enjoyed his playing. “Man, you're talking about cloud nine? I was there.”
The sold-out event garnered national attention, including reviews on Billboard.com and MTV.com.
“It certainly was a risk,” CSO marketing manager Kathy Karnap said of the concert. “It ended up being a huge success. ... Then the ball just got rolling.”
In the aftermath, the symphony has offered a slew of hip-hop-inspired programs, including a sold-out show featuring an appearance by Common, a mashup of music by Tchaikovsky and Drake, and the forthcoming collaboration with Wycelf Jean on Saturday, Feb 17. According to Karnap, similar shows are on the horizon.
“I believe that some people that have come to see the symphony probably didn't even know that we were here,” Karnap said.
And for regular attendees, the shows have likely exposed them to a new genre.
“It's no different than a restaurant,” Shipley said. “It's another taste. … Try it. See if it resonates with you.”