The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra is a pops orchestra based in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States, founded in 1977 out of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Its members are also the members of the Cincinnati Symphony, and the Pops is managed by the same administration. Erich Kunzel, the Pops' founding conductor, continued to lead the Pops until his death in 2009.
In 1965, maestro Max Rudolf invited Erich Kunzel, a young conductor on the faculty of Brown University, to join the Cincinnati Symphony. That October, Kunzel, a Dartmouth graduate and assistant to French conductor Pierre Monteux, conducted his first "8 O'Clock" Pops concert. Over the next four decades, the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra regularly performed for packed houses in Cincinnati's Music Hall and established worldwide recognition through tours and critically acclaimed, best-selling recordings on the Telarc label.
An estimated 30 million people have viewed eight national telecasts of the Cincinnati Pops on PBS, and the Orchestra has more than 100 available recordings, 56 of which have appeared on the Billboard charts, a record unmatched by any other orchestra, and sales of over 10 million units. The Pops’ Copland: Music of America won a 1998 Grammy Award, and four other Pops recordings have been nominated for Grammy Awards.
In May 2008, the Pops received an invitation to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the only American orchestra to play the opening weekend.
After Kunzel's death on September 1, 2009, John Morris Russell was named in December 2010 as the new director of the Pops, effective September 1, 2011.