Top of the Pops

Sarah Hicks on touring with Sting, microfunding, and her ’80s obsession

Q: As the Minnesota Orchestra’s pops conductor, you’ve created the Musical MicroCommission—the first time an orchestra has rallied the public to fund a new composition. Is it working?
Sarah Hicks: Yep, we’re on track for composer Judd Greenstein to premiere the work with the orchestra next year.

Q: What inspired this Kickstarter-esque approach?
SH: It’s hard for young composers to get a major orchestral work financed, and microfunding is being used for all kinds of things now. This way, we can foster a relationship and let those younger composers grow. And you can give $5 and say you’ve contributed to a major work, which is pretty cool.

Q: This summer, you’re hitting the road with Sting, leading his orchestra on the Symphonicity tour. I take it you’re a fan?
SH: I have all his albums, going back to the Police. In fact, when I heard I was going on tour, I realized I was only missing his most recent album—a live album of the Symphonicity tour! It was an immediate purchase.

Q: What’s the biggest difference between touring with a rock legend and traveling with the Minnesota Orchestra?
SH: Private jets.

Q: This month, you’re conducting ’80s Rewind!, in which the orchestra plays Guns ’N’ Roses and Michael Jackson. Were you a classic ’80s kid? How big was your hair?
SH: My hair is naturally dark, straight, and Asian, but I had a perm: totally curled-out poodle hair. We all wore those gray Flashdance sweatshirts without irony, so why not embrace it? That was a booming time!

Q: Is Orchestra Hall ready for acid-wash jeans?
SH: I have two outfits I’ll wear that night, and I don’t want to give them away. But fingerless lace gloves are involved.

Hicks leads the Minnesota Orchestra in ’80s Rewind! on May 6 and 7 at Orchestra Hall. For MicroCommssion details, see her blog, Inside the Classics, at

Read more about Hicks and her Rockin’ Style at

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