The Philly Pops on Tuesday announced the successor to artistic director and founding conductor Peter Nero, who will step down in 2013 after more than three decades as the group's leader and most recognizable face.
Michael Krajewski, 62, will take the baton as the Pops' musical director beginning in the organization's 35th season next fall, Philly Pops presenter Encore Series Inc. announced.
Krajewski has served as the principal Pops conductor with the Atlanta, Houston, and Jacksonville orchestras and appeared as a guest conductor with the Boston Pops, the Cincinnati Pops, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra and the St. Louis Symphony.
"I'm incredibly honored to become part of the great tradition that is The Philly Pops," Krajewski said. "Peter Nero has truly built a fantastic ensemble of players and a national reputation for high quality music making. I look forward to building on what's been established and, more importantly, providing the audiences of the Philadelphia region exciting music experiences."
Nero, 78, announced in August that he was departing the Pops after 35 years as the leader and the face of the ensemble. The Grammy-winning pianist and conductor will close out the Pops' 2012-2013 season at The Kimmel Center in May and is expected to conduct the annual Independence Day concert at Independence Hall on July 3.
The Philly Pops had called Nero's contract too expensive and negotiated his departure as part of the bankruptcy filing in April 2011 by its then-parent organization, the Philadelphia Orchestra. The orchestra has since ended its relationship with the Pops and it emerged from bankruptcy in July.
In advance of the 2013-2014 season, Krajewski will guest conduct at two Pops concert series in March and April.
Encore Series president and chief executive officer Frank Giordano called Krajewski, who was signed to a three-year contract, "one of the absolute best and most respected Pops conductors in the country."
"As we plan for the future of The Philly Pops, Maestro Krajewski's energy and experience, his talent and reputation will be incredible assets to the orchestra," he said.
Krajewski has held posts including resident conductor of the Florida Symphony and music director of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra. He has performed with the Calgary Philharmonic and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and embarked on international tours including the Hong Kong Philharmonic and the Iceland Symphony. He recorded two albums with the Houston Symphony and has collaborated with flutist James Galway and singers Roberta Flack and Art Garfunkel.
The press event at City Hall on Tuesday announcing Nero's successor struck a sour note with the maestro, who said he was not invited to attend.
"It's a horrible slight and a terrible way to treat him after 35 years," his attorney Paul Rosen said. "Poor Peter has been beside himself about it."
Rosen said the negotiation process had been contentious at times but it was disrespectful to exclude Nero, who wanted to make clear to the city and his fans that his absence was not a slight on his part. Giordano claimed that Nero was invited.