North Charleston POPS!

The North Charleston POPS! is a fully professional orchestra dedicated to bringing music of a popular nature to the Lowcountry and is supported by corporate, business, and individual donations, subscription sales, and grants, including the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Coastal Community Foundation, and the South Carolina Arts Council.

We have a unique style of combining an orchestra with other genres of music and vocalists, as well as video delights. It is always a surprise to first-time concertgoers, but they love it. We are innovative, unique and totally entertaining.

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Nick Palmer, Musical Director

Nick Palmer has been widely recognized for his compelling performances, visionary leadership and emotional connection to audiences and is regarded as one of the most talented symphonic and Pops conductors on the scene today. Maestro Palmer is in his fourth season as Music Director of North Charleston POPS! and is also Music Director of the Lafayette Symphony in Indiana and the Evening Under the Stars Music Festival in Massachusetts.

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Nick has had an ongoing relationship with the renowned London Philharmonic Orchestra and will make his third recording with the LPO later this season featuring the orchestral music of American composer Arnold Rosner at the famed Abbey Road Studios.

Nick Palmer has won rave reviews with the Detroit Symphony, Nashville Symphony, Santa Barbara Symphony, Tucson Symphony, Boulder Philharmonic, Virginia Symphony, Chicago Sinfonietta, Louisville Orchestra, Naples Philharmonic, Salt Lake Symphony, Huntsville Symphony, Springfield (MA) Symphony , Greenville Symphony and other orchestras across the nation. He has also conducted over a dozen performances with the Jacksonville Symphony during the last several seasons, including regional concerts in St. Augustine, Orange Park and Daytona Beach. Nick is a frequent Pops conductor for the Springfield (MA) Symphony and was recently named Principal Pops Conductor of the Altoona (PA) Symphony

Nick has also worked with many top Pops performers including Smokey Robinson, Neil Sedaka, Art Garfunkel, Clay Aiken, Al Hirt, Shirley Jones, Jeans and Classics, Ballroom with a Twist, Tony Desare, Mary Wilson, Cirque de la Symphonie and many others.

A favorite guest conductor in Europe, Mexico and South America, Palmer recently conducted the Europa Philharmonie at the Hardinsburg Castle near Berlin, toured with the Orchestra di San Remo for two weeks in Italy and led concerts with the Czech Radio Orchestra at the Prague and Nelahozeves Castles celebrating the music of George Gershwin.

The German press hailed Palmer’s conducting as “a musical high point with world class flair” and Radio Suisse Romande in Switzerland noted Palmer’s: “great professionalism with unity and verve”. Palmer has also led the West Bohemia Symphony, National Orchestra of Bolivia, Sophia Symphony, Sinaloa (OSSLA) and Monterrey (UANL) Symphony in Mexico, Milano Classico Orchestra, Medellin (EAFIT) Symphony and Lausanne Symphony.

A native of Hingham, Massachusetts, Palmer graduated cum laude from Harvard University and received his Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Orchestral Conducting from the New England Conservatory of Music and the University of Iowa, respectively. He also has studied at the Juilliard School, Pierre Monteux Domaine School, Aspen Music School, the Festival at Sandpoint, and the Academia Chigiana in Italy, where he was a student of Franco Ferrara and Carlo Maria Giulini. Dr. Palmer is also Distinguished Conductor in Residence at Kentucky Wesleyan College.

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C. Gerome Stewart, Concertmaster

C. Gerome Stewart, Concertmaster of the North Charleston POPS!, has been playing the violin for over 26 years and has performed with orchestras throughout Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Indiana, South Carolina, and Florida. Mr. Stewart holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Violin Performance from Columbus State University and a Master of Music degree in Violin Performance from the University of Louisville. In the summer of 2017, he was appointed Dean of Mens’ Studies at the prestigious Brevard Music Center.

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His principal teachers include Patricio Cobos, Manuel Diaz, J. Patrick Rafferty, and Jay Christy. Mr. Stewart has participated in master classes with artists such as Cecylia Arzewski, Robert McDuffie, Midori, György Kurtág, Eroica Trio, Diaz Trio, Turtle Island String Quartet, Miami String Quartet, and Takács Quartet. He has toured professionally as a violinist with the Carl Rosa Opera Company, New Sigmund Romberg Orchestra, Hollywood Concert Orchestra, and The New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players. In addition to his leadership role with the POPS!, Mr. Stewart is currently an active member with the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra and the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra.

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Tacy Edwards, Executive Director

Tacy Edwards is a co-founder of the North Charleston POPS! and serves as its Executive Director. She has brought decades of experience in the arts field to the purpose of creating this vibrant orchestra to become the heart of the North Charleston arts experience. Tacy is the Principal Flute with the POPS! and Orchestra Kentucky, is Second Flute in the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra and is the Piccoloist with the CSO from 1992 to the present.

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“It has been rewarding to work with the POPS! team in this welcoming city, which is only 46 years old! The vision of the various mayors of the City of North Charleston have made the arts central to the community in building the Coliseum and, later, the Performing Arts Center. We are proud to call the Performing Arts Center our home and are impressed with the dynamic economic, cultural and domestic growth of the city as it continues to attract new businesses and has become the heart of the Low Country with its shopping choices, hotel accommodations, International airport, Boeing facilities, business opportunities and innovative new educational and recreational programs for the children of the community. North Charleston is definitely a great place to live, work and play.”

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Samantha Clark, Education Outreach Director

Violist Samantha Clark is a member of the North Charleston POPS! and is Principal Viola in the Summerville Orchestra. She is the director of the strings division of the POPS!KidZ program, based at Malcomb C. Hursey & Pepperhill Elementary Schools, and is the teacher of strings in the North Charleton area for the CCSD. She also teaches privately and shares her love of music with as many children as possible.

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Playing viola for over 24 years, Mrs. Clark holds a Bachelor of Viola Performance Degree from Converse College in Spartanburg, SC and a Master of Viola Performance Degree from CCM in Cincinnati, OH. Her primary teachers have included Miles Hoffman, founder of The American Chamber Players and commentator for NPR, as well as Dr. Catharine Carroll and Masao Kawasaki at CCM. After spending time in graduate school working with the after-school music program Whiz Kids, she realized she also had a passion for teaching and enrolled in the PACE program in South Carolina. She received her teaching certificate through this program and has been teaching for the Charleston County School district for five years, four of these in North Charleston Schools.

Matthew Peebles, POPS!Kidz Orchestra Director

Matt Peebles, a Charleston-born violin/violist, is a member of the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra and is a founding member and Principal Second Violin of the North Charleston POPS!. He also plays regularly with other orchestras throughout the Southeastern US, and with numerous touring groups. An active music educator, he was formerly Orchestra Director at DuBose Middle School and Ashley Ridge High School and was named Rookie of the Year at both DuBose Middle School and Dorchester School District Two. He is a regular violin/viola clinician for SCMEA orchestra events and maintains a private violin/viola studio in Charleston. Matt earned his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of South Carolina, studying violin with Ryan Kho and Neil Casey, and viola with Constance Gee. Outside of music, he holds an USCG Master Captain’s license, and one is likely to find him enjoying the waters off the coast of South Carolina for both work and play.

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Christal Brown Heyward, POPS! Kidz Choral Director

Christal Brown Heyward is an accomplished singer, pianist, songwriter, and performing artist. Born in the 1970’s and a native of John’s Island, SC, her musical career has spanned over 30 years and currently she serves as Minister of Music at St. John’s Chapel in Charleston, South Carolina (since 2009). As a Recording Artist, Christal has recorded seven successful Gospel CD’s and has appeared at New York’s Showtime at The Apollo, Bobby Jones’ Gospel in Nashville, St. Mark’s Cathedral in Shreveport, Louisiana and internationally in Bermuda and Italy. In fulfilling her passion as an educator with a desire to expose youth and adults to formal piano and vocal training, Gibsong Academy of Music was established in 2009 in its West Ashley location. Christal is married to Sergeant Major Samuel Heyward, Jr. (USMC, Retired) and together they have four children – Samuel, III; Samese and Samone Heyward and Nelson Gibson, Jr.

Musicians

The North Charleston POPS! is made up of 56 professional musicians. Here is a list of our Principal (first chair) players:

  • Concertmaster: C. Gerome Stewart
  • Violin II: Matthew Peebles
  • Viola: Robbi Kenney
  • Cello: Elizabeth Murphy
  • String Bass: Roman Pekar
  • Flute: Tacy Edwards
  • Oboe: Rebecca Testerman
  • Clarinet: Philip Lipton
  • Bassoon: Susan Barber
  • Horn: Debra Sherrill-Ward
  • Trumpet: Robert Murray
  • Trombone: Ben Dickinson
  • Tuba: Justin Clarkson
  • Percussion: Michael Haldeman
  • Timpani: Michael Greer
  • Piano: Anna Brock