Interview – Trans-Siberian Orchestra Music Director: Derek Wieland

Trans-Siberian Orchestra (Photo: Jason McEachern)
Trans-Siberian Orchestra (Photo: Jason McEachern)

From their humble beginnings playing multiple nights at theaters in limited cities, to blossoming into a powerhouse that had to split into two touring groups to cover enough ground during the holiday season and becoming one of the top grossing arena tours each year, Trans-Siberian Orchestra has dominated the holiday touring circuit for the past fifteen years. TSO has played to more than 11 million fans and grossed over 450 million dollars since they begin touring in 1999.

A mix of The Who’s ‘Tommy’ & Andrew Lloyd Weber with Pink Floyd-esque lights, TSO’s three Christmas albums are rock operas that have been performed in their entirety, complete with narration. For many years, the group performed 1996’s ‘Christmas Eve and Other Stories’ before switching to ‘The Lost Christmas Eve’ (2004) for the 2012 & 2013 tours, and, now, for the first time in 2014, TSO will be performing their 1998 album, ‘The Christmas Attic.’ The first half of the show will feature the complete rock opera, followed by Trans-Siberian classics such as “Old City Bar” and “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24.”

Calling from Scranton, Pennsylvania on November 28, 2014, music director for Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s (East) touring group, Derek Wieland talked to CleveRock about all things TSO. Wieland has been performing with TSO for the past nine years.

The music and stories of Trans-Siberian’s rock operas are masterminded by Paul O’Neill, who previously served as a producer for rock powerhouses Aerosmith and Savatage.

Wieland explained O’Neill’s vision:

“Paul writes the stories and creates the vision for the stories and the records and how he wants them to translate into the live shows. We all come together to create that live vision that Paul has in his mind. The show is so large in scope for what it means and what it’s about.”

As TSO’s popularity quickly expanded during their first few years on the road, the group traded in the intimacy of theater performances to a full blown arena spectacular. Musically and production wise, the shows increase in power every year.

“Trans-Siberian Orchestra really does push the envelope and boundaries. That’s what like to do. We see what can be done… What’s the limit of what we can do musically in the show? What’s the limit of what we can do with the production? What’s the limit on what we can accomplish within the shortest amount of time that we can? That’s the challenge,” Wieland said. “Part of the great thing about this year, because it’s a new show, when we were in production rehearsal for two weeks, it all came together. You really don’t know what’s going to happen until you do it. You can prepare and plan but until you just throw it all together you don’t know.”



Loyal fans and new fans alike can enjoy the debut of ‘The Christmas Attic.’ As music director, Derek is proud of this year’s production.

“The show is great. For the people that have come before, it’s a new story and new music, and this is possibly the only time we are going to do this story. For the people that have never seen the show before, it’s really beautiful how it has come out. All the things people love about Trans-Siberian Orchestra come out in this show. It’s a win/win.,” Wieland stated.

Part of what makes TSO so special is the blending of talents of each performer on tour. Backgrounds of performers range from classical to jazz to metal.

“The great thing about being a part of this is the production and the performers are so diverse and so high level that it brings a spark and an energy that lifts you up,” Wieland explained. ” It’s like a shot of adrenaline. It’s always inspiring and always exciting to learn from other people and we all get to learn a lot when we do these tours as we work together in different fields and make music together.”

TSO cherishes their incredible fan base. They also take pride in giving back to the communities they perform in, donating $1 from each ticket sold to a local charity, chosen by a local radio station.

As for the fans:

“We don’t take them for granted for a second, anything that we do,” Wieland said. “There is nothing like somebody enjoying what you’re doing when you’re an artist. That’s what we live for; that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing. That’s the best part of the whole thing.”

And, as for the 11 million dollars Trans-Siberian Orchestra has donated to charities over the years:

“For Paul, and for all of us, it’s very important that a portion of the sales goes to a local charity in every city that we offer. We like the radio stations to pick the charities because they know where the money is needed and we know the money is going to a good place.”

And, although the Christmas tour may only last two quick months, TSO is keeping busy year round, with many irons in the fire.

“There is Christmas, there is non-Christmas, there are rock operas and straight rock records in the works,” revealed Wieland. “We have a lot of written material that’s very, very old. We are also in the studio.”
Trans-Siberian Orchestra Official Site

Trans-Siberian Orchestra will perform at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena on Friday, December 26 at 3:00 PM and 8:00 PM. Complete show and ticket info can be found on our concert calendar, HERE!

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