Carl Topilow

Peter Nero sitting in front of a piano

 Founding conductor of the Cleveland Pops Orchestra, Carl Topilow’s eclectic programs have been acclaimed by audiences and critics alike. He enjoys a dual career as both conductor and clarinetist, often finding an occasion to perform a selection with the Pops on one of his brightly colored clarinets.

Carl is also conductor of the Firelands Symphony Orchestra, a regional orchestra based in Sandusky, Ohio. After 42 years as conductor of the National Repertory Orchestra (NRO), a summer festival in Breckenridge, CO, he is continuing an active role with the orchestra as Conductor Laureate. He was named Faculty Emeritus after 37 years as Conductor and Director of the Orchestral Program at the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) and has served as principal pops conductor of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra and Mansfield Symphony Orchestra.

Topilow has performed as guest conductor with 132 different orchestras in 37 states and 12 foreign countries. In addition to concerts this season with the Ohio Valley Symphony and Florida Lakes Symphony, he will be giving master classes at Bob Jones University, the University of North Carolina Charlotte, the Collegiate Orchestral Directors Association conference, and hosting his second conducting workshop in Cleveland. His CIM students and NRO assistant conductors hold positions in orchestras both in the United States and abroad.

Topilow’s wife Shirley is President and CEO of the Cleveland Pops Orchestra. Their daughter Emily is a marketing associate with the Cleveland Clinic, and their daughter Jenny is a violinist with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra.

Carl’s book, The Orchestral Conductor’s Career Handbook, published by Rowman and Littlefield, is now available through and