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Worlds collide: Columbus Symphony Orchestra fuses hip-hop and a classic symphony

Steve Hackman, guest composer and conductor for the Columbus Symphony Orchestra has fused hip-hop and classical music in his latest work, “Tchaikovsky v. Drake.” | Credit: Darlene Delbecq

In a marriage of classical music and hip-hop, guest composer and conductor Steve Hackman brings his symphonic compositions to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra with his piece, “Tchaikovsky v. Drake.”

As part of the orchestra’s pops series, the concert will feature three vocalists and a rapper, along with romantic era composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s iconic Symphony No.5 –– all combining to perform dozens of Drake’s songs, including hits like “Jumpman” and “Hotline Bling” on Sept. 15.

This is not the first time Hackman has combined the two genres, previously creating mashups such as “Brahms v. Radiohead” and “Beethoven v. Coldplay.”

“I’ve always been equally passionate about classical music and pop music,” Hackman said. “I’ve pursued both at the highest level [and] this is just an attempt to realize my unique musicianship in a performance, and hopefully relate to people that have a similar combination of high art and pop art aesthetics.”

Hackman said he chooses orchestral pieces that he feels are important for the ordinary person to hear.

The decision to use Drake’s music, Hackman said, came from his desire incorporate hip-hop and rap into a piece, noting the melodic ease of Drake’s music and the similarity between the styles of the two artists.

“Tchaikovsky and Drake both wear their hearts on their sleeves, they’re very romantic, there’s an innocence and naivete, I think, to their music,” he said.

Karl Pedersen, principal violist of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and viola faculty at Ohio Wesleyan University, has played Hackman’s previous works with the orchestra and said the composer has a good understanding of millennials and their interest in classical music.

“Young audiences are very excited about learning more about Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven,” Pedersen said. “I think these integrations with these other artists that are more familiar to them are a great gateway [to these artists].”

Hackman said he believes his fusion pieces are a way to give exposure to classical music and allow the public to explore more of Tchaikovsky and classical music in general.

“If I can attract a whole group of students that love Drake’s music, and expose them to Tchaikovsky’s fifth symphony for the first time, I think there’s a good chance that some of those individuals will come away saying, ‘Wow, I did not think I would like Tchaikovsky as much as I did,'” he said.

“Tchaikovsky v. Drake” will be held at the Ohio Theatre on 39 E. State St. Tickets can be purchased online via Ticketmaster or at the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts Ticket Center.

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