Holiday Pops – Utah Symphony | Utah Opera

Utah Symphony attracts star classical music talent from across the country for the coveted chance to play in one of only 15 full time orchestras in the nation. Here’s a look at how a few of them like to celebrate the holidays in their home away from home in Utah.


Mercedes Smith, 34, Plano, Texas – Principal Flute

“The incredible Christmas light display at Temple Square is definitely on my must-do list for the holidays as it never fails to put me in the spirit of the season.”


Travis Peterson, 33, Milaca, Minnesota – Principal Trumpet

“My wife and I love the holiday season in general, but particularly enjoy SLC during the holidays. We typically kick it off with a large gathering of family and friends (orchestra and non-orchestra people) for Thanksgiving, enjoying great food and great drinks (beer, cider, cocktails, etc.) and great company. We like to take advantage of all of the traditional happenings: Cathedral of the Madeline Advent services, Temple Square lights, cocktail parties. Playing all of our Utah Symphony holiday concerts certainly helps us get in the holiday spirit. We really just enjoy being around good friends and company.”


Hanah Stuart, 29, Libertyville, Illinois  –  Assistant Principal 2nd Violin

“Skiing is an obvious hobby for many of us. And a long day of skiing, of course, means there’s a bubble bath, hot cocoa, and Netflix-watching session to follow. Our family has a holiday cookie day tradition where we bake cookies morning until night and those are our gifts for teachers, friends and neighbors. We used to add one or two new recipes each year when I was growing up, but we’ve had to start recipe rotations since the Epic Cookie Day of 2006 when we had 14 people in my Aunt’s kitchen and we made 1,200 cookies. I am not exaggerating, I have pictures. Our family holiday favorite flick is White Christmas, of which I’m pretty sure I could quote, sing and dance the entire thing by heart. Who doesn’t love a little Danny Kaye for the holidays?“


Anne Lee, 34, Calgary, Alberta – Cello

“During the holidays, I enjoy the proximity to the beautiful mountains, especially Alta where I ski the most. I like the variety of terrain—treating myself to a mocha at Watson’s shelter makes for a great day. I’ve gotten a lot better since moving to Salt Lake thanks to some lessons, and my powder-hungry husband [Utah Symphony violinist Claude Halter] who is always encouraging me to push my boundaries. Last year, I finally had the courage to ski Baldy Chutes (something that’s been on my bucket list since moving here) and look forward to it again this season. Cello-wise, I always find myself reenergized during this time of year and inspired to improve my playing and end the symphony season with beautiful music.”


Eric Hopkins, 27, New York City, New York –  Associate Principal Timpani and Percussion

“I spend the holidays mastering front flips in Big Cottonwood and teaching snowboarding at Brighton. I typically host a party at a backcountry yurt—hot toddies and stargazing are a must. I keep my playing muscles in shape at an indoor rock wall. I hand-sew my timpani mallets and usually change out the delicate felt in the winter, while watching Mr. Robot, of course.”

[pjc_slideshow slide_type=”holiday-pops-fashion-shoot-with-the-utah-symphony”]

Photography: Adam Finkle

Styled by: Farasha – Vanessa Di Palma Wright and Madeleine Marie Ewell

Hair and Makeup: Flavia Carolina of Versa Artistry

Art Direction: Jeanine Miller

Salt Lake Magazine
Salt Lake Magazine
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