Sunday, September 1, 2013

Out Spotlight

Today's Out Spotlight is an American singer, pianist, and music revivalist. He is an interpreter of, and an anthropologist and archivist for, the repertoire known as the Great American Songbook. In 1988 he won a Drama Desk Special Award for celebrating American musical theater songs. He is also a multi-platinum-selling, five-time Grammy-nominated recording artist. He currently serves as Artistic Director for The Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, Indiana. Today's Out Spotlight is Michael Feinstein.

Michael Jay Feinstein was born September 7, 1956 in Columbus, Ohio, the son of Florence, an amateur tap dancer, and Edward Feinstein, a sales executive for the Sara Lee Corporation and a former amateur singer. At the age of five, Feinstein studied piano for a couple of months until his teacher became angered that he wasn't reading the sheet music she gave him, since he was more comfortable playing by ear. As his mother saw no problem with her son's method, she took him out of lessons and allowed him to enjoy music his own way.

After graduating from high school, he worked in local piano bars for two years, moving to Los Angeles when he was 20. Through the widow of legendary concert pianist-actor Oscar Levant, in 1977 he was introduced to Ira Gershwin, who hired him to catalog his extensive collection of phonograph records. The assignment led to six years of researching, cataloging and preserving the unpublished sheet music and rare recordings in Gershwin's home, securing the legacy of not just Ira but also that of his composer brother George Gershwin, who had died four decades earlier. His extended tenure enabled him to also get to know Gershwin's next-door neighbor, singer Rosemary Clooney, with whom Feinstein formed an intensely close friendship lasting until Clooney's death. Feinstein served as musical consultant for the 1983 Broadway show My One and Only, a musical pastiche of Gershwin tunes.

By the mid-1980s, he was a nationally known cabaret singer-pianist famed for being a dedicated proponent of the Great American Songbook. In 1986, he recorded his first CD, Pure Gershwin (1987), a collection of music by George and Ira Gershwin. He followed this in quick succession with Live at the Algonquin (1986); Remember: Michael Feinstein Sings Irving Berlin (1987); Isn't It Romantic (1988), a collection of standards and his first album backed by an orchestra; and Over There (1989), featuring the music of America and Europe during the First World War. Feinstein recorded his only children's album, Pure Imagination, in 1992. In the 1987 episode "But Not For Me" of the TV series thirtysomething he sang But Not For Me, Love Is Here to Stay and Isn't It Romantic? as parts of dream sequences.

By 1988, Feinstein was starring on Broadway in a series of in-concert shows: Michael Feinstein in Concert (April through June 1988), Michael Feinstein in Concert: "Isn't It Romantic" (October through November 1988), and Michael Feinstein in Concert: Piano and Voice (October 1990). He returned to Broadway in 2010, in a concert special duo with Dame Edna titled All About Me (March through April 2010).

In the early 1990s, he embarked on an ambitious songbook project wherein he performed an album featuring the music of a featured composer, often accompanied by the composer. These included collaborations with Burton Lane (two volumes: 1990, 1992), Jule Styne (1991), Jerry Herman (Michael Feinstein Sings the Jerry Herman Songbook, 1993), Hugh Martin (1995), Jimmy Webb (Only One Life: The Songs of Jimmy Webb, 2003) and Jay Livingston/Ray Evans (2002). He has also recorded three albums of standards with Maynard Ferguson: Forever (1993), Such Sweet Sorrow (1995), and Big City Rhythms (1999).

In the late 1990s, Feinstein recorded two more albums of Gershwin music: Nice Work If You Can Get It: Songs by the Gershwins (1996) and Michael & George: Feinstein Sings Gershwin (1998). His albums in the 21st century have included Romance on Film, Romance on Broadway (2000), Michael Feinstein with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (2001), Hopeless Romantics (2005, featuring George Shearing), and The Sinatra Project (2008).

In 2000, the Library of Congress appointed Feinstein to its newly formed National Recording Preservation Board, an organization dedicated to safeguarding America’s musical heritage.

In 2008, the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative located its headquarters in Carmel, Indiana. The Initiative's two-fold mission includes the preservation, research, and exhibition of the physical artifacts, both published and non-published, of the Great American Songbook and educating today's youth about the music's relevance to their lives. The Initiative houses an archive and reference library; plans exist for a free-standing museum. The organization also holds an annual Great American Songbook Vocal Academy and Competition that invites high school students from around the country to compete in regional competitions. Finalists gather at the Initiative's headquarters for a vocal "boot camp" and final competition. The winner receives scholarship money and the opportunity to perform with him at his cabaret in New York.

In 2009 Feinstein became the artistic director of The Center for the Performing Arts. located in Carmel, Indiana. Construction of the $170-million, three-theater venue was completed in January, 2011. The Center is home to an annual international arts festival, diverse live programming, and the Michael Feinstein Initiative.

In 2009, Feinstein teamed up with Cheyenne Jackson to create a nightclub act titled "The Power of Two". The show was hailed by the New York Times as "passionate," "impeccably harmonized" and "groundbreaking". Variety acclaimed it as "dazzlingly entertaining". Their act became one of the most critically acclaimed shows of 2009, and the duo created a studio album from the material, The Power of Two.

In 2010, PBS aired Michael Feinstein's American Songbook, a three-part television documentary that depicts the history of the American popular song up to 1960, as well as his own life and career.

He is part owner of the Manhattan nightclub Feinstein's at the Regency, a showcase for cabaret performers. He performs there for a sold-out Christmas holiday stint each year, and at other times as well. The club will be closing January 1, 2013, when the hotel closes for renovations. A new location for the club is yet to be announced. Feinstein was also a part owner of the now-closed Speakeasy Supper Club in Chicago. Previously, he operated a Feinstein's club at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. In 2008, he opened his own London venue, Feinstein's at the Shaw.

In August 2012, Feinstein was named the new lead conductor of the Pasadena Pops, succeeding Marvin Hamlisch, who died unexpectedly on Aug. 6. He is scheduled to start his new job as principal pops conductor in the 2013 season. He will also have the newly created title of Marvin Hamlisch Chair at the Pasadena Pops.

His memoir The Gershwins and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs about working for Ira Gershwin was published in the fall of 2012, accompanied by a CD of Feinstein performing the Gershwin brothers' music discussed in the book.

Recently he has written the score for two new stage musicals, The Night They Saved Macy’s Parade and The Gold Room. He is working with MGM to turn The Thomas Crown Affair into a Broadway musical. He is also scoring his second movie, The Big Valley.

In October 2008, Feinstein married his longtime partner Terrence Flannery. The ceremony was performed by famed family court and television judge Judith Sheindlin, also known as Judge Judy. They have homes in New York, Los Angeles, and Indiana.


prairiegirl said...

Oh wow, Michael Feinstein. As soon as I realized who the spotlight was about, it made me think of that Coach episode where Hayden took Christine to go see him in concert, right? LOL!! That show was hilarious.

prairiegirl said...

Oh good, you saw my comment, Paid Troll. I meant what I said.

Wow, so how many times does the paid troll hit Refresh within 30 minutes, I wonder. LOLLL! I bet that comment hadn't been up for more than 1 single minute. That's excellent information to know. Makes one wonder if the party gets paid by the number of comments or number of engagements per month.

destiny said...

I have The Power of Two, it's a good record. I really like American standards when it comes to music, although I usually listen to stuff from the 40s and 50s, it's pretty rare that I buy something from someone "new", so to speak.

It really is incredible PG.

prairiegirl said...

I'll give it a try, Dest, because I have become a huge fan for the past year of the likes of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Bobby Darin and Etta James. I haven't been able to get enough of that stuff, downloading left and right.

Little bit of Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, just really stupendous music.

I think Frank, Nat and Etta are my absolute favorites.

destiny said...

I like those artists too, but I especially love Sinatra. Other favorites of mine are Judy Garland and Sarah Vaughn.

I also have some compilation CDs from those eras with all kinds of artists on them that I enjoy listening to, especially late at night.

Julie London is another name that pops into my head. A lot of people remember her from acting on TV, but I really enjoy her music.

Cloud 9 said...

Wonderful Spotlight.

Radar said...

What announcement via press release?

Radar said...

It's fabulous to see the positive reviews on Prisoners. I guess this will be one of those movies (like Brokeback) where if it receives Oscar nominations it'll be a bit of guesswork as to who gets nominated for lead or supporting. In any case, this movie was first secretly screened to extremely positive response back in June, ironically the same time Jake got himself into a 'relationship.' Though I'm sure the two have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with each other ;)

Florida Tom said...

I love Tony Bennett PG. He is just as good today as he ever was and also very popular. I love his duets. He did Body and Soul with Amy Winehouse not long before she passed and it was great. Check it out on Youtube.

the real m said...

Very talented man. I think he opened a club or something in the bay area recently, or maybe he just performed there recently. I've watched his specials and he is so good at explaining things and brings so much history to music.

Another intersesting blind at ent lawyer today. "Don't look now, but this not-so-closeted A-list actor and jack of all trades stepped out with his director boyfriend on the Venice Film Festival red carpet. Don't expect to see any official announcement that he's bi soon, he's going to hold out for as long as he can." Most are guessing Franco.

Funny PG. I am amazed at how obsessed the troll is with us. What would he do with his time without us.

Special K said...

Congratulations to Diana Nyack who, after 5 attempts, is the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage!! The 103-mile swim took her more than 52 hours.

destiny said...

What a feat for Nyack!

Sheesh said...

Nyack? Nyack? Diana Nyad

Come on SporkleK and Dusty.

Special K said...

Congratulations to Lance Bass on his engagement to boyfriend Michael Turchin!

AUS10 said...

What a giant!! My hero. Diana Nyad made the crossing. I've been watching every year. I knew she would make it. Congrats!!! #XtremeDream

prairiegirl said...

Tony Bennett is another great one, Tom, I forgot about him. I never listened to any Amy Winehouse before but I came across one of her songs on my Pandora alternative station - "He Can Only Hold Her". What a great song.

Congratulations to Diana Nyad. Boy, she never gave up, you really have to hand it to her.

Well, it's countdown time now to my trip. And am I anywhere near ready? No!!! lol. So much to get done this week. It's costing me a fortune just to get ready to go. LOL! That's not the way it's supposed to work.