It seems to me that I have been a music director of one sort or another for a very long time. It seems that way, I guess, because it is true. Recently I was asked by a friend, not in our business, exactly what it is that I do. And it occurred to me, as I was describing it, that it was not all that different from my days in a garage band when I was about 14, learning cover songs from the radio. Back then I was the one with the Royal Conservatory piano lessons and theory under my belt. Therefore I was the one the others in the band expected would lift the song from the record, teach them the chords, work out vocal harmonies and basically run the rehearsals. And the host’s Mom would make us sandwiches. Apart from that, things have not changed all that much.
To start with, a quick summary: I have been involved in over 100 theatrical productions throughout North America, from regional theatres in my native Canada, to Broadway, and everything in between. And on almost all of those productions I served as Music Director/Conductor, sometimes playing a keyboard, sometimes waving a small white stick. I wear a lot of musical hats, so to speak, and therefore my abilities and experience as an arranger, dance arranger, orchestrator, composer, supervisor and even music prep/copiest have come into play on many of the aforementioned productions. I also feel that my love of and involvement in all types of popular music, i.e. rock, jazz, R & B, etc., along with my formal/classical training, has given me a unique skill set. I work in the theatre but I bring to it experience in a multitude of musical genres not always associated with musical theatre. While working as music director/band leader on the Broadway production of Rent, I had a weekly Thursday evening, post-show jazz quartet gig. And by day I was simultaneously continuing my studies as a classical conductor. Pretty great. Pop/rock/theatre/jazz/’legit’…a steady diet of the variety of the music that makes me happy.
The resume on this site goes into more employment details but a quick round-up would include: several Broadway shows, numerous productions in Toronto (my hometown) many of which were Canadian premiers: The Phantom of the Opera, The Who’s Tommy, Rent, The Lion King, The Producers to name a few. I was also music director/conductor for the world premiere of the musical adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings, but this website isn’t massive enough to do justice to the stories from that experience! (A very good experience, I hasten to add.)
My six years spent as Director of Music for the Stratford Festival of Canada (Des McAnuff, Artistic Director) were chock full of creative projects. In addition to conducting the musicals, I also composed music for plays, notably Des McAnuff’s production of Caesar and Cleopatra starring Christopher Plummer and Nikki M. James. I also did new orchestrations for some of the shows, programmed lobby concerts and was deeply involved in administrative/labor issues.
In the US, in addition to work in New York, I have worked at many of the leading regional theatres; La Jolla Playhouse, Dallas Theater Center, Arena Stage and Shakespeare Theatre in DC, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, Goodspeed Musicals and, most recently, TUTS in Houston. I have been fortunate enough to work with some of the most brilliant international directors, designers and choreographers working today.
Outside of the theatre I have worked in a number of musical capacities. As a music director, conductor and arranger I have done television specials, such as the PBS special I did with Colm Wilkinson and Patti LuPone. I have produced and arranged a number of albums for artists (samples of some appear on this site) and I have accompanied and performed with a number of amazing singers in concert. I have also spent time in the studio trenches doing commercials, jingles, etc. And of course there is always my love of jazz, which first brought me to New York as a very young man.
These days I am back living in New York City and am involved in a number of new productions. I have been involved as music supervisor/arranger for a ‘Broadway bound’ revival of The Secret Garden, which we have recently taken to DC, Seattle and Houston. But if I had to say what I like doing best in the theatre, it would be working on the development of new shows. I am happy to report that I am currently involved in a small handful of very exciting new projects. (Watch this space).