Conductor's baton on sheet music
Marching with wind
Xylophone Sticks
Drum & Symbol

The Reading Pops Orchestra

To kick off its 50th Anniversary season, the Reading Pops Orchestra collaborated with The Four Freshmen, on Sunday, January 27, 2019 at the Miller Center for the Arts.

 “In considering the makeup of the 50th Anniversary season of events, we wanted to bring to our audience concert artists they have appreciated in the past,” said Dr. Willis M. Rapp, the current conductor of the Pops and retired Music Department Chair at Kutztown University. “The choice was obvious as The Four Freshmen rose to the top of the list of artists that we would consider to re-engage with the orchestra.
“As conductor of the Reading Pops Orchestra, this will be my third opportunity to collaborate with these great musicians. The synergy between The Four Freshmen and our orchestra has been exciting in the past, and I can’t wait to have the same opportunity as we kick off our 50th Anniversary season.”  

The Reading Pops' reputation as a dynamic orchestra has sprouted significantly in the rich topsoil of collaboration with a litany of accomplished artists in their Berks Jazz Fest and Sunday With The Pops concerts.

The Pops are a professional 55-piece orchestra made up of musicians from Berks County and surrounding counties who perform popular classics and classic pop. Conductor Wes Fisher established the group in 1969.

The orchestra performs throughout Berks County playing a wide variety of music, including recognizable classics and overtures of Von Suppe, Handel, Strauss, Dvorak, Bizet and Mozart.

They cover composers such as George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein and Morton Gould along with popular tunes from Broadway musicals by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin.

The Pops also perform movie soundtracks by John Williams and others. The music of LeRoy Anderson the father of the Pops genre, often is featured as well.

Besides The Four Freshmen, the Pops have performed with such luminaries as Paquito D’Rivera, Ramsey Lewis, David Benoit, Chuck Mangione, Jim Brickman, John Pizzarelli, Nelson Rangell, New York Voices, Rick Braun, City Rhythm Orchestra, Diane Schuur, Brian Bromberg, Ann Hampton Calloway, Eric Marienthal, Chuck Loeb, Jane Monheit, Cathy Chemi and Skip Stine, Livingston Taylor, The Brubeck Brothers Quartet, Minas, Andrew Neu and Keiko Matsui.

The Pops will be performing again with Matsui, the internationally acclaimed and celebrated pianist and composer, during the Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest on
Saturday, April 6, at 7:30 p.m. at the Miller Center for the Arts.

“Keiko Matsui is a terrific jazz artist with whom we have established a great relationship as a result of past Berks Jazz Fest performances,” said Rapp. “We look forward to working with Keiko and her fabulous combo in April.” 

Confirmed Reading Pops Orchestra 50th Anniversary 2019 events:

  • January 27 – Reading Pops with The Four Freshmen, 3 p.m., Miller Center for the Arts

  • April 6 – Reading Pops with Keiko Matsui, Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest, 7:30 p.m., Miller Center for the Arts

  • June 8 – Side-by-Side Concert with Berks County High School Students, 7 p.m., Oley Valley High School

  • June 16 – 50th Anniversary Father’s Day Concert, 3 p.m., Reading Public Museum

  • July 14 – 22nd Annual Concert, 6:30 p.m., Wyomissing Stone House

Willis M. Rapp

2018 Percussive Arts Society

Lifetime Achievement in

Education Award Recipient


The Percussive Arts Society Lifetime Achievement Award in Education was established in 2002 and recognizes the contributions of the most highly regarded leaders in percussion education. The recipient of this award for 2018 is Dr. Willis M. Rapp. 

Dr. Willis M. Rapp has served on the faculty of Millersville University of Pennsylvania, Southeastern Louisiana University, Iowa State University, and Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, where he retired in 2013 with the distinction of Professor Emeritus. From 1976-1978 and again from 1987-1991, he served as the PAS Pennsylvania Chapter President. He also served as a member of the organizing committee for PASIC 1990 in Philadelphia, PA. In 1980, Rapp was selected to serve on the PAS International Drum Rudiment Committee. Rapp is in his forty-fifth year as a published author with over 500 publications to his credit through such companies as Meredith Music Publications, GIA Music Publications, and the Hal Leonard Publishing Corporation. With one exception, he was the youngest student to have studied timpani and orchestral repertoire with Fred D. Hinger. Since 2000, he has served as conductor of the Reading Pops Orchestra. He has guest conducted, performed as a recitalist, and appeared as a clinician in twenty-eight states and three provinces in Canada. His scholarly text, The Wind Band Masterworks of Holst, Vaughan Williams and Grainger, was released in March 2005. He was the recipient of the 2007 Kutztown University Faculty Research Award and 2009 Arthur and Isabel Wiesenberger Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching. In addition to his volunteer work on the Board of Directors of the Kutztown University Foundation, Rapp has dedicated his efforts to establish the Center for Mallet Percussion Research (CMPR) at Kutztown University.