Cellist Audrey Snyder, a Vernon Hills native and Stevenson High School alum, has been on tour with The Who since March. The tour featured a May 21 stop in Tinley Park. Courtesy of Audrey Q. Snyder

‘It’s obviously really exciting’: Stevenson grad plays cello for The Who

By Russell Lissau | Daily Herald

A cellist with suburban roots has been touring North America as a member of The Who’s backing orchestra.

Audrey Q. Snyder, who grew up in Vernon Hills, is one of two string players traveling with rock icons Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey and the rest of The Who.

At each stop of the “Moving On!” tour, Snyder and her cello join a 50-piece orchestra consisting of local musicians hired for that night’s show.

“Pete and Roger have been doing this for 50 years, and their impact on music and pop culture is hard for me to even wrap my head around,” said Snyder, 29, who now lives in Chicago. “It’s obviously really exciting to be part of.”

A 2008 graduate of Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Snyder is the cellist and social media coordinator for the Zafa Collective, a Chicago-based contemporary classical group.

She also teaches cello, writes music and performs in musical theater — including as a substitute player in the Chicago production of “Hamilton.”

“But I’ve never had a role that’s quite so featured and so visible (as playing with The Who),” she said.

Snyder was offered the gig earlier this year by orchestra conductor and music director Keith Levenson. Levenson was the music director for a 2016 touring show of “The Bridges of Madison County” that featured Snyder on cello.

“Keith asked me for a resume and headshot to pass on to others in charge of the tour, and based on that and his recommendation, I was lucky enough to get the job,” Snyder said.

Snyder, who was a cello performance major at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music in New York and earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree there, admits she wasn’t a huge fan of The Who before taking the gig.

“I had always appreciated their music and was familiar with a number of their hits,” she said. “I honestly grew to appreciate them more once I dug a little deeper into their music in preparation for the tour.”

She’s especially taken a liking to the rock opera “Quadrophenia,” which features The Who standards including “The Real Me” and “Love, Reign o’er Me.”

“I listened to it quite a bit before I started this job, and it’s got some of my favorite tunes on it, many of which we play with orchestral accompaniment,” Snyder said.

“Love, Reign o’er Me” is one of Snyder’s favorite songs of the live show. It’s paired with an instrumental from “Quadrophenia” called “The Rock,” with an extended keyboard solo separating the two.

“The whole thing is pretty epic,” she said.

The tour stopped at Tinley Park’s Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre on May 21. Snyder’s parents — both musicians themselves — and brother were in the audience, and Townsend introduced her to the crowd as a Chicagoan.

Snyder called the show one of her favorite moments of the tour.

“I was able to play the gig alongside a bunch of other Chicago musicians I know and love,” she said. “I felt really proud to be there.”

Snyder’s dad, Rick, was a pretty big The Who fan in his younger days. He still has an old vinyl copy of the classic “Who’s Next” album.

The elder Snyder said watching his daughter perform with the band was thrilling.

“The best part was seeing and hearing that cellist,” he said. “I may be a little biased.”

“I can’t say it would ever have occurred to me that one day Audrey would be performing with a major rock band,” Snyder’s mom, Kitty, added. “Playing the cello just doesn’t usually take a person in that direction. But then, Audrey has always been a kind of outside-the-box individual.”

The tour’s first leg concluded May 30. Snyder, The Who and her fellow classical musicians will perform at London’s Wembley Stadium on July 6, and then they’ll return to North America for another leg in September and October.

Snyder said she occasionally interacts with Daltrey and Townshend offstage.

“The whole process of touring is honestly pretty tiring, and I think much of the time they’re trying to save energy and prep for the long day that is every show day,” Snyder said. “They are both very kind to me and often greet me by name, ask me how I’m doing.”

Snyder considers herself “extremely lucky” to be part of the tour.

“I don’t expect myself to be very well-known as a musician,” she said. “But I’m really happy to be able to keep doing what I love — playing cello — and keep getting hired to do it.”

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