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Louisville Orchestra: Louisville Orch debuts conductor’s rail

Teddy Abrams and the new conductor’s rail and podium by Joseph Walsh Studio (photo: Jon Cherry)

(March 2024) — Already the recipients of a 2024 Grammy Award, the Louisville Orchestra and its
Music Director, Teddy Abrams, are now also the happy recipients of a one-of-a-kind, sculptural
new conductor’s rail and podium from Ireland’s Joseph Walsh Studio. Completed in September
2023 after a year in the making, this unique ash stage-piece was created expressly for Abrams and
the orchestra and given to them as an expression of gratitude to the Louisville-based benefactors
and arts supporters who first introduced artist Joseph Walsh to the conductor. The new rail and
podium will be unveiled to the public at a special gala concert on April 18, with Walsh in
attendance. Celebrating Abrams’s tenth anniversary with the orchestra, the concert will feature
their performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. More information about the event is available

Joseph Walsh collaborated with Abrams to design the rail and podium. While working in different
spheres, the two artists bonded over their common vision of creation and collaboration as a means
of bringing people together, both in the process of creating and in its outcome. This shared vision
led Walsh to invite Abrams to participate in “Making In 2023.” This was the most recent edition of
the annual seminar hosted by the Joseph Walsh Studio in Fartha, Ireland, which comprises a series
of unique conversations between international makers across multiple disciplines. The 2023
edition was the first to feature music; Abrams was invited not only to speak, but also to perform
with an orchestra of Irish musicians, using the recently completed rail and podium.

Artist Walsh explains:

“As a conductor, Teddy Abrams is full of energy, and tries to reach each person in the orchestra,
which gave me the idea of creating a rail that would curl around him, to hold him but also
capture his movement, as if it were tracing the movement of his baton. The challenge of making
such a piece did not concern its crafting – we are experienced in that area – but how relevant it
would be in the orchestra. We were adding this new, very contemporary piece into an ensemble
of instruments that have existed for centuries. We look forward to seeing how the rail and
podium will fit in with all these instruments that were there long before.”

Abrams responds:

“Joseph Walsh is one of the great artists and artisans of our time; he is also a truly generous,
thoughtful, and deeply curious creative individual. It is from his generosity of spirit and talent
that this extraordinary podium and rail came to be. The piece is exquisite and unique – it lives
and breathes with the same fluidity as a conductor and with the same energy as live music.
Joseph’s insight into the physicality of music-making is manifest in his brilliant and beautiful
work. It is an exceptional honor to bring Joseph’s piece to Louisville, and I can hardly believe
that I will have the privilege of performing in concert with his art.”

To create his first conductor’s rail and podium, Walsh drew inspiration from Abrams’s exuberant
energy on stage. Bringing the conductor’s vibrant personality into conversation with Walsh’s own
creative approach and artistic worldview, the piece represents the designer’s intuitive response to
what he saw and took away from witnessing the conductor at work. As is his usual practice, Walsh
collaborated with members of his studio to bring his vision to life. Using the designer’s signature
wood-bending technique, Jonathan Otter (Senior Maker, Workshop Lead) and Gabriel Hielscher
(Senior Maker, Assistant Workshop Lead) made the rail and podium in ash. The finished piece is
exactly as Walsh designed it.

About Teddy Abrams

Teddy Abrams, Musical America’s 2022 Conductor of the Year, is now in his tenth season as Music
Director of the Louisville Orchestra (LO). Together with the orchestra and star pianist Yuja Wang,
the 36-year-old-conductor took home his first Grammy Award in February 2024, for “Best Classical
Instrumental Solo,” with Wang’s Deutsche Grammophon release The American Project.
Since inaugurating his appointment in September 2014, Abrams has been widely recognized as the
galvanizing force behind the LO’s extraordinary artistic renewal and innovative community
engagement. He and his leadership of the orchestra have earned national media attention in such
outlets as the New York Times, CBS Sunday Morning, the New Yorker, NPR, the Wall Street Journal
and PBS NewsHour. In 2022, Abrams and the LO launched their trailblazing Creators Corps
initiative: a fully funded residency for three composers who receive local housing, a salary, health
benefits and dedicated work spaces. The following year, Abrams and the orchestra embarked on
the inaugural leg of “In Harmony – The Commonwealth Tour of the Louisville Orchestra,” a historic
multi-season state tour backed by a funding commitment from the Kentucky State Legislature. On
February 23, Abrams accepted the key to the city of Louisville from Mayor Craig Greenberg, who
praised the conductor and orchestra for “their incredible work and impact in our community and

Abrams also remains in high demand as a guest conductor around the world. Recent engagements
have included Helsinki and Buffalo Philharmonic debuts, as well as performances with the Chicago,
Cincinnati, Colorado, Kansas City, Utah, and Pacific Symphonies; the Los Angeles Philharmonic; the
Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg; and Innsbruck’s Tyrolean Symphony Orchestra. In the
2023 edition of “Making In,” Abrams conducted a special performance of Copland’s Appalachian
Spring with a group of Irish musicians.

An award-winning composer, in April 2023 Abrams premiered his own Mammoth with cellist Yo-Yo
Ma, bass-baritone Davóne Tines and the LO in Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave. Other notable
collaborations of his LO tenure include The Order of Nature, a song cycle composed with Jim James,
the vocalist and guitarist for My Morning Jacket, and recorded with the LO for Decca Gold. On the
same label, Abrams, the LO and singer-songwriter Storm Large recorded All In, featuring American
music by Cole Porter, Aaron Copland, and Abrams and Large themselves. Abrams is currently
workshopping ALI, a new Broadway musical about Muhammad Ali.

About Joseph Walsh and Joseph Walsh Studio

Joseph Walsh Studio was founded by Joseph Walsh in 1999. Encompassing a design studio,
workshop, gallery and archive, the studio is situated in an 18th-century farmhouse in the County
Cork countryside on the south coast of Ireland. Art, craft, design and technical innovation merge in
the exquisite and expressive pieces that the studio crafts.

Joseph Walsh’s work reflects his passion for expression through material and form. From
monumental scale sculptures to one-of-a-kind site-specific commissions and collectible design
editions, every piece within his dynamic body of work reveals an intuitive relationship with
making, a sympathetic use of materials, and an expressive engagement with form.

Walsh’s achievements in design have been recognized by an honorary doctorate from University
College Cork, a major commission for the National Gallery of Ireland and the acquisition of works
for many major international collections, including those in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the
Centre Pompidou in Paris; the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design
Museum, and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, and the National Gallery of Ireland and
the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin.

High-resolution photos are available here.

© 21C Media Group, March 2024

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