Of all Sarah Hicks’s distinguishing characteristics—first woman conductor with the Minnesota Orchestra, prizewinning pianist, award-winning composer—the one that scored her the job of directing Sting’s orchestra during this summer’s Symphonicity tour was probably this: She doesn’t listen to classical music.
Not in her spare time, anyway. She’s the orchestra’s first director of pops, after all. She’s a self-proclaimed pop-culture junkie. She reads Rolling Stone and listens to Arcade Fire. Though, if it was her experience working with other rockers, like John Mayer and Ben Folds, that made her the ideal candidate, it was her friendship with Sting’s regular trumpeter, Chris Botti, that got her the job. (It couldn’t have hurt that, like Sting, she also enjoys yoga; it’s easy to imagine that every rehearsal with Sting ends with a savasana.)
But Hicks also has the necessary road-warrior mentality. It’s a world-wide tour. And Hicks is comfortable being out of her element; her Twitter profile proclaims her as “Conductor-girl on the loose. Have stick, will travel”—sort of an orchestral superhero.
Here she is leading the National Symphony Orchestra, backing John Mayer for a cover of Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.”