About the Pops

The idea for Urbana Pops Orchestra began as a 22-piece pit orchestra for a single weekend of performances of Urbana Park District’s Youth Summer Theatre program of The Sound of Music in 2009. The following year, the ensemble expanded to offer full-orchestra summer concerts. UPO was originally founded by Daniel F. Southerland and Stephen L. Larson.

Probably UPO’s most unique characteristic is its commitment to giving talented youth opportunities to play alongside professional musicians. In fact, 20 to 30 percent of the seats on the concert stage are filled with exceptional junior high and high school student musicians.

Throughout the year, UPO offers recitals to showcase its some of its accomplished adult musicians and their students in the casual setting of Urbana Free Library. Small ensembles perform at various venues in the Champaign-Urbana area.

UPO’s motto “Plays well with others” is lived out in this example of shepherding young musicians, including young composers, as well as the organization’s many local music, business, and educational collaborators.

UPO is affiliated with Urbana School District #116 and Urbana Park District.

Stephen L. Larson, conductor

Stephen L. Larson is an educator, vocal coach, conductor, and performer. He earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Millikin University, a master's degree from VanderCook College of Music in Chicago, and a master's degree in conducting from Eastern Illinois University.

He has taught music at all grade levels throughout Central Illinois. Larson is a co-founder of the Urbana Pops Orchestra. A versatile musician, Larson has sung in numerous choir, including the Baroque Artists of Champaign, and is an accomplished pianist. Larson is pursuing a doctorate in conducting from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.