During the 2016 Deer Valley Music Festival, the Utah Symphony has launched a weekly interview series entitled “Between the Barlines,” which seeks to reveal aspects of guest artists’ lives outside of the music for which they are known, including things such as their backgrounds, their influences, and their non-musical interests.
Nicknamed “The Ambassador of the Great American Songbook,” Michael Feinstein is considered to be one of the leading interpreters of American Standards. In 1977, when Michael was introduced to Ira Gershwin, brother and lyricist of George Gershwin, Michael began studying for Ira for six years, researching and cataloging Gershwin materials. As Ira’s assistant, Michael earned access to numerous unpublished Gershwin songs and has performed and recorded many throughout his career. Michael is known for his work in preserving the legacy of America’s popular songbooks.
In this interview, Michael discusses the humble beginnings of his musical legacy, from working in multiple piano bars to his most memorable performances, to his first, influential meeting with Ira Gershwin. Michael also talks about his favorite composers, which spans Romantic composers like Rachmaninoff and Grieg as well as contemporary singers like Catherine Russell and Storm Large. A passionate musician, Michael discusses his enthusiasm for finding lost pieces of American music, pouring through everywhere from archives to dumpsters for rare musical manuscripts.
When talking about his upcoming celebration of Gershwin with the Utah Symphony, Michael says, “To perform with the Utah Symphony is a very blessed experience because it is one of the great orchestras of the world. There’s a deep and long Gershwin connection because Maurice Abravanel knew the Gershwin brothers. I met Maestro Abravanel many years ago in New York and it was a thrill to meet him because he was so close to my mentor, Ira Gershwin…the show is one that’s interactive and it’s certainly a lot of fun. With this kind of orchestra I can perform the ballads with a lush string section and the swing songs with the brass, so it’ll really run the gambit of style and energy for that evening. I think it’ll be a real fun night.”
Be sure to listen to our interview with Michael Feinstein here.