About The Michigan Pops Orchestra

The Michigan Pops Orchestra is the oldest student-run, student-directed collegiate pops orchestra in the United States, managed by an executive board of 13 students. The Michigan Pops Orchestra was founded in 1995 by Warren Hsu, a University of Michigan student committed to enhancing musical diversity across campus. He advertised the Orchestra as one that performed music that students wanted to play and that no other orchestras on campus were programming. Hsu also wanted to give Ann Arbor residents unfamiliar with orchestras an opportunity to have orchestral experiences in a fun and exciting atmosphere. To this day, Hsu's initial motives are still Pops' biggest priorities.

The Founder: Warren Hsu

Warren Hsu was born and raised in Cincinnati Ohio, where he began playing the violin at the age of four and spent a great deal of time in the city's youth orchestras. He was influenced by many of his instructors, including Gerald Doan and Keith Lockhart, to not only appreciate the classics but a wide variety of musical genres. It was during this time that Warren also became an avid fan of film and in particular its music. The works of John Williams, Danny Elfman, and James Horner inspired him to begin thinking of greater possibilities.

When he arrived at the University of Michigan in 1993, he was still drawn to join one of the orchestral groups available. After years of participating in the traditional, however, he searched for something different that did not yet exist. One night after watching Forrest Gump and leaving the theater humming bits of the soundtrack, he began to imagine what it would be like to play this with an orchestra. Months later, with sheer persistence, this simple yet slightly insane thought turned into a group of sixty five like-minded dreamers that became the Michigan Pops.

Today, Warren remains extremely proud of this entirely student run organization that continues to attract those searching for a uniquely fulfilling life experience. He has enjoyed watching the orchestra become a place where creative minds and future leaders thrive, and where fun is had by all. At present, Warren resides in sunny Wilmington, NC, where he is a family practice physician.


To get the Orchestra off the ground, Hsu solicited $5,000 of funding from University organizations including the University Activities Center, the Programming Grants Council, the Michigan Student Assembly, LSA Student Government, the Residence Hall Association, and the Rackham Student Government. The entire amount, along with income from program advertisements and a personal contribution from Hsu, funded Pops' first concert in March 1996. Two years later, Pops became a part of the University Activities Center (UAC), a U-M umbrella organization established by the Regents in 1965. UAC is now composed of 13 student-run groups dedicated to student programming, with all programs completely funded by the Regents. With its increasing creativity, publicity, and programming, Pops' annual budget continues to grow.


Hsu recruited Pops' first musicians through mass emails and much persistence, resulting in a tremendous response. The first group of musicians was a fusion of both non-music and music majors. Since then, Pops has grown from a group of 60 students to 100 students, both undergraduate and graduate. Today, the majority of musicians are non-music majors and come from all colleges at the University of Michigan. Pops advertises itself to students as "a serious orchestra without the stress, a casual orchestra without the fluff, and the only student-run, student-directed full orchestra on the U-M campus." In its early years, Pops struggled to find enough musicians to cover parts and would hire several music students to help out; in Fall 2007, the Orchestra auditioned almost 200 non-music major students.

Additional Ensembles

In addition to the full orchestra, Pops instated a Small Ensembles program in Fall 2002, placing students in smaller chamber groups and presenting a concert featuring these groups each semester. The program was originally for Pops members only, but opened up to any interested students in Winter 2007. In Fall 2007, Small Ensembles Directors Jen Wurtzel and Shari Rosen created the Michigan Pops String Orchestra, a smaller, self-conducted chamber orchestra of 30 students. The Michigan Pops String Orchestra's first concert is scheduled for March 2008.


The Michigan Pops Orchestra prides itself in providing opportunities for U-M students to continue playing their instruments. Pops believes that making music is much more fun when orchestra members know each other and encourages a fun and social atmosphere through frequent social events. Pops is committed to presenting fun and exciting concerts to the U-M and Ann Arbor community, presenting a variety of music that appeals to the music lover in everyone.