Todd Ellison, Conductor

Benjamin Franklin Parkway

Benjamin Franklin Pkwy
Philadelphia, PA 19130
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04 July 2019
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Jennifer Hudson, vocalist 
Todd Ellison, Music Director
The Philly POPS BIG Band + Strings

A Philly POPS Salute Series performance honoring our nation's traditions, values, and commitment to service.

Your sponsorship or donation will help to offset the cost of hosting the veterans, military, and first responders at Salute Series events throughout the year.

The Philly POPS BIG Band returns to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for a third year running—in its biggest performance yet. The Philly POPS BIG Band + Strings will play under the direction of Music Director Todd Ellison, alongside Academy and Grammy Award-winning international superstar Jennifer Hudson.

After an evening of performances, the city’s grand finale fireworks show brings the evening to a close. This performance is the final event of Wawa Welcome America, the nation’s largest free 4th of July festival.

Comcast NBCUniversal is the Presenting Sponsor of The Philly POPS Salute Series. These free celebrations of community and tradition, which honor our shared commitment to service on holidays of American tradition, also rely on the generous support of Major Sponsors Bank of America, Archer Law, Macys, Visit Philly, and Drs. John* (Jack) and Pina Templeton as well as grants through partnership with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia.

Guest Artists

Jennifer Hudson, vocalist


A two-time Grammy Award-winning recording artist, Academy Award-winning actress and best-selling author, Jennifer Hudson is an extraordinary talent.  From humble beginnings, Hudson began singing in a small Chicago church where, week after week, she brought the congregation to its feet. From there, she’s gone on to worldwide acclaim.

Hudson was most recently seen as a returning coach on ITV’s eighth season of “The Voice UK” with fellow coaches Tom Jones, will.i.am, and Olly Murs. This past year, she returned for her second time and winning coach to season 7 of “The Voice UK” and for her second time to season 15 of NBC’s “The Voice” alongside Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, and Kelly Clarkson. This past year, Hudson also starred alongside Jeffrey Wright, Jennifer Ehle, Nas and A$AP Rocky in “Monster,” based off of Walter Dean Myers’s award-winning novel of the same title. The film premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.  Jennifer will soon be seen in Tom Hooper’s upcoming film adaption of “CATS.” Hudson’s song, “I’ll Fight,” written by Grammy-winning songwriter Diane Warren for the critically acclaimed documentary, “RBG,” was nominated for a 2019 Academy Award.

In 2016, Jennifer appeared in NBC’s Emmy-nominated production of “Hairspray LIVE!”, where she wowed audiences as powerhouse Motormouth Maybelle alongside co-stars Harvey Fierstein, Ariana Grande and Kristin Chenoweth. The same year, she was honored by the March of Dimes with their Grace Kelly Award. Additionally, Hudson was a featured voice in Universal’s animated hit “Sing” and portrayed Angela Wright in HBO’s 2016 Emmy-nominated television film “Confirmation.” In 2015, she appeared in Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq,” for which she was nominated for a 2016 NAACP Image Award.

Hudson made her Broadway debut as Shug Avery in 2015 in the Tony award-winning production of John Doyle’s re-imagination of “The Color Purple.” The show, produced by Scott Sanders and Oprah Winfrey, earned rave reviews and a Grammy win for Hudson. She was also nominated for a Drama League Award in the category of Distinguished Performance.

In September of 2014, Hudson released her third critically acclaimed album, “JHUD,” which opened in the Billboard Top 10. The album, released by Sony/RCA, features hit tracks such as Grammy-nominated “It’s Your World,” “He Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” “Walk It Out,” and “I Still Love You.” Hudson’s album garnered serious attention in the US and abroad with recognition of her thoughtful departure and a fearless rendering of work produced by some of today’s most prolific collaborators.

2013 was equally exciting a year for Hudson, most notably, when she received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  She was also honored with the privilege to perform at the Presidential Inauguration, Super Bowl XLVII and the Academy Awards. In addition, Hudson was also honored by the Recording Academy at the Annual Grammy’s on the Hill for her philanthropic efforts, specifically with her organization, the Julian D. King Gift Foundation. The same year, Hudson was honored at VH1’s Do Something Awards for her charitable work and at Variety’s Power of Women luncheon with the Samsung Galaxy Impact Award.

Hudson’s sophomore album, “I Remember Me,” debuted in March 2011 at No. 2 on Billboard’s Top 200 and R&B Albums charts and has since been certified RIAA Gold in the U.S. She went on to receive a 2012 Billboard Music Award nomination for Top R&B Album as well as taking home two 2012 NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Music Video and Outstanding Album. Additional recent collaborations include “Think Like A Man” with Ne-Yo and Rick Ross for the title track of the film and critically acclaimed single “Night Of Your Life” with David Guetta for his most recent hit-album “Nothing But The Beat.”

Hudson’s 2008 self-titled debut won a Grammy Award for “Best R & B Album,” which was presented by one of Hudson’s idols, Whitney Houston. She received three additional nominations including “Best Female R&B Vocal Performance,” “Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals” and “Best R&B Song.” The album then went on to win three awards at the 2009 NAACP Image Awards including “Best Album.” The RIAA Platinum Certified album entered Billboard’s Top 200 at No. 2 and marked the biggest first week sales for an R&B female entry since 2004 and has since sold over 1.1 million albums worldwide to date.

In 2007, Hudson won an Academy Award for her role as “Effie” in the smash hit “Dreamgirls,” an adaptation of the Broadway musical.  Her breakout film performance also garnered a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a BAFTA and an NAACP Image Award. Additional credits include being honored by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the National Board of Review and being named “Entertainer of the Year” at the Soul Train Awards. Additional film and television credits include “The Secret Life of Bees”, “Sex and the City: The Movie”, “Lullaby”, “Black Nativity”, “Winnie Mandela”, “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete”, “The Three Stooges”, “Call Me Crazy: A Five Film”, “Smash”, and “Empire”,

Expanding her talents in the arts, Hudson added author to her list of accomplishments in January 2012 with the release her New York Times best-selling memoir, “I Got This: How I Changed My Ways, Found Myself and Lost Everything that Weighed Me Down”.

In 2009, Jennifer, along with her sister Julia, founded The Julian D. King Gift Foundation, as a catalyst for change in children’s health, education and welfare.  The Foundation exists to provide stability, support and positive experiences for children of all backgrounds so that they will become productive, confident and happy adults.

Todd Ellison, Conductor


Hailed by The New York Times as one of “Broadway’s Electric Conductors,” Ellison is one of the most accomplished and sought-after music director/composers working today.

Currently the Music Supervisor/Conductor/arranger of the new Broadway-bound musical Roman Holiday, he is also the composer of the award-winning new musical The Black and White Ball with Stephen Cole, as well as The Canterville Hotel with Brendan Cull. He also composed the songs “The Long Way” for Emily Skinner, and “Gettin’ Nowhere Fast” for Guy Haines.

He is currently the Music Supervisor of An American in Paris at the Dominion Theater in London’s West End, as well as 42nd Street at the Drury Lane Theater.

His Broadway credits include Michel Legrand’s Amour, Monty Python’s Spamalot (Best Musical Tony Award), La Cage aux Folles (Best Musical Revival Tony Award), 42nd Street (Best Revival Tony Award ), Elton John’s Lestat, Annie, The Wild Party, On the Town, Once Upon a Mattress (starring Sarah Jessica Parker), How To Succeed (starring Matthew Broderick), She Loves Me, Taller than a Dwarf and A Class Act.

He was the music director of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular at the famed Radio City Music Hall for several seasons.

As Marvin Hamlisch’s music director, Ellison worked with him on his productions of Ballroom and The Nutty Professor directed by Jerry Lewis.

For City Center’s Encores!, he conducted their acclaimed version of On The Town and The Bandwagon.

Internationally, he has conducted at the Vienna Konzerthaus with Dawn Upshaw and Jerry Hadley, The Dublin Film Orchestra, Radio City Christmas Spectacular (Mexico City), World Science Festival at Lincoln Center, Cole Porter’s Jubilee at Carnegie Hall, the Pittsburgh Symphony, San Diego Symphony, The Philly POPS, Nashville Symphony, Long Beach Symphony, New Haven, New Jersey, and York Symphonies.

He has conducted more than 20 albums including the Grammy Award-winning cast albums of his shows. He has accompanied such stars as Beyoncé, Meryl Streep, Mike Nichols, Nicole Kidman, Barry Manilow, Jane Lynch, Bea Arthur, David Hyde Pierce, Tracey Ullman, and Kelsey Grammar.

Born in Essex, Connecticut, Ellison began his piano lessons at age 6 and is a graduate of Boston University School of Music with a degree in piano performance.

The Philly POPS BIG Band


The Philly POPS BIG Band performs throughout the Philadelphia region. Composed of 18-20 musicians – five saxophones, five trumpets, four trombones, a drum set, a piano, a guitar, and bass – the BIG Band plays swing, ragtime and jazz in the style of the Count Basie Orchestra and Harry James Band while expanding its repertoire into all kinds of popular music from Latin to funk and rock. The Philly POPS BIG Band members were chosen for their passion for popular music. Each is also a teaching artist, adept at instructing the next generation of musicians.

Salute Series Presenting Sponsor