Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Celebrating Sam Davis!


"God  give me the serenity to accept that which cannot be changed; give me the courage to change things that can be changed; and the wisdom to distinguish one from the other."
-The prayer of St. Francis of Assisi



Happy Hanukkah!
Tonight at sundown, Hanukkah, or the festival of lights begins. 
To all my Jewish friends, I send you love. "May the lights of Hannukah usher in a better world for all humankind."
Actually, I send love to everyone. I love celebrations thus the new name of my blog. And today, I begin this next chapter by celebrating musician Sam Davis.

Sam came to me via Randy Buck who came to me via Beth Glover who came to me via The Hampton Playhouse who came to me by audition. So, you see, it pays to get out of the house AND be social in this anti-social climate. You never know the new path you will go down just by taking a chance.

 SAM DAVIS is a composer, arranger, conductor, and pianist. Winner of the Jonathan Larson Award for composition. His work as composer is featured on the P.S. Classics release Love on a Summer Afternoon: THE SONGS OF SAM DAVIS, wich was featured in my Sunday blog.

Broadway credits as pianist/conductor include Curtains, The Apple Tree, Follies, and Cabaret. He was music supervisor for Dreamgirls in Korea, Japan, South Africa, at the Apollo Theater, and on national tour. He has been arranger, orchestrator, and/or music director for many shows regionally, including most recently James and the Giant Peach (Goodspeed) and The Trumpet of the Swan (Kennedy Center). Sam is a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Music. 

 Peter Pan starring Sandy Duncan was one of the first shows he remembers seeing. He saw it twice, once at a special kiddie matinee (he was 4 years old.) He saw the original production of Annie at around the same time, not sure which one came first.

 

Growing up in New York City, Sam was taken to Broadway shows at a very early age. By the time he was ten, he'd seen nearly a dozen, including Annie, The Pirates of Penzance, The King and I (with Yul Brynner) and Cats. Sam remembers being obsessed with set changes and stage effects. He vividly remembers the conveyor belts moving people on and offstage in Annie, and thinking Starlight Express was the best show he'd ever seen.

Meanwhile, Sam thought A Chorus Line was boring since there were no set changes. "What can I say, I was twelve, I had no taste.  :)"

The point being, a love and appreciation of theater was in his blood from the very beginning.
 
His family was very interested in all kinds of the arts, and they lived in New York City.
So in addition to Broadway shows, he saw lots of concerts, opera, plays, and movies, again from a very early age.


Sam's first time on stage was in a production of "Winnie the Pooh" in his elementary school when he was in first grade. He played Piglet.His first professional job was as assistant music director for Evita at Theater-
 by-the-Sea, summer of 1996

Music direction was by Stephen Oremus, and Lennie Watts was in the ensemble!

Shrek director Jason Moore, who helmed Avenue Q, reunites with Jeff Whitty and Stephen Oremus, that show's scribe and music director, respectively. (Photo credit: Broadwayworld.com)
Sam feels that arts in education is so important. He ended up transferring to a different high school his sophomore year because the arts program at the first was so terrible. 
He thinks, as I do, that it's shocking that so many European governments spend much money on their public arts programs, but that here in the States the powers that be often couldn't care less. We can't last long as a society without a vital and varied cultural life, and understanding of this starts at the beginning, with the young. Arts in Education should be as important as math and English!

Your thoughts on Carol Channing (All my blogs focus on Carol Channing’s FoundationFor The Arts)

I’m campaigning for Carol Channing to receive the 2012 Kennedy Center Honor in 2012. If you agree that she should receive this honor, can you say why you think this should happen

Of course she should get this honor! With Ethel Merman and Mary Martin gone, she's the last true Broadway star of a certain generation. With people like Barbara Cook and Chita Rivera being honored, it's only fair that Carol should be the next! I saw her in the 1995 Broadway Hello, Dolly...pretty amazing.

Two songs of Sam's were premiered at a concert at Symphony Space last week. 

 Upcoming projects include Sam's show "Bunnicula," written with Charles Busch and Mark Waldrop and scheduled to open at the Lucille Lortel Theater next summer. He is also writing dance arrangements for the Broadway productions of "Big Fish" and "Empire," plus the West End production of "Bridget Jones' Diary," all due to open next year.


with Edward Hibbert
Sam says he is still waiting for his biggest success in show business!. Just kidding. :) His highest profile jobs have been as musical director for the recent national tour of Dreamgirls and as associate conductor for the Broadway production of "Curtains." As a composer, his most successful song is "Greenwich Time," with lyrics by Randy Buck. It appears on three albums, including his own, and is performed very frequently, many times by high profile performers.

Sam had a nervous breakdown while working in Korea on the tryout of "Dreamgirls." Therapy, medication, and the support of friends and family helped pull him through.
 
He would like to see it become easier for new work to be presented, particularly on a larger scale. The only way to become a better writer is to have the opportunities to do it and make mistakes. Nowadays, it may take many years to get a show produced, and if it's not a smash hit, you may never get another shot. It's very difficult to develop and establish a career that way.

 
Who are your TOP FIVE models and influences as an artist?
George Gershwin




Sir Paul McCartney
Leonard Bernstein
Richard Rodgers
Sam feels that in writing and performing music, particularly musical theater, he comes closer to expressing his "real self" then he does in the rest of his life. He feels more alive while working than at other times.He has always felt that one should not be in the arts without a passionate need to communicate through music (or acting, or dancing, or whatever.) Well he has that need alright.




Are you happy at the point you are right now in your career?

Yes and no. Yes in that I have managed to support myself and to build a career in musical theater with many different and interesting credits, many of them high-profile. I am happy that I am finally starting to move away from playing the piano and music-directing, which never interested me much, into writing and arranging, which did. I am excited to have several high-profile arranging credits coming up. But I am anxious to succeed more as a composer of musicals, and would like very much to write a successful show. I have high hopes for Bunnicula.

 
Do you feel you have achieved what you set out to do?
 I'm on the way.  If I'd completely achieved it, I wouldn't have much to do for the rest of my life, would I?
 
You can't succeed long in the arts without a large resevoir of optimism, however misguided.  Whatever happens, I have a steely determination to succeed that gets me through the tough parts.

 
If you had all the money in the world...that you needed...would  you continue working.

Oh yes. But I would probably spend most of my time writing music. If I had all the money in the world, I could produce my shows myself! 

 
A genie pops out of the lamp, he grants you three wishes. What are those wishes?
 1.) A successful career writing a string of  musicals that are both critically acclaimed and giant monster hits that would provide me with all the money that I need.

2) A handsome and supportive partner (it's been 7 years since I had a longtime partner...anyone??? hello???)

3.) I dunno, what else to wish for? Magical powers? The ability to eat caramel sundaes for every meal without gaining weight?

 Sam Davis has a gift for unforgettable melody; he writes brilliantly in a theatre tradition that many of us love, and is destined for glory. He's carrying on the tradition of the Great American Songbook in high style; long may he wave!
Randy Buck

 Love Sam more than breathing. Easily one of the most talented brilliant composers out there today. Comfortable in any style, he's also a great arranger and conductor. He is the future.
Danny Burstein


I recently met Sam at the New Voices Collective concert at Symphony Space. Various writers, including my writing partner, Ilene Reid, and I, Andrew Lippa, Tom Kitt, Pasek and Paul, Steve Marzullo, Georgia Stitt (many other writers)....and Sam were asked to present songs from shows we are working on "in development". Sam presented a very funny song called "Love and Real Estate" from his show "Love and Real Estate" which was performed by the amazing Michael Winther. It's clear that Sam is immensely talented and I hope we get to share the stage with him again some day.
Michael Heitzman





NO COPY WRITE INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!
Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!
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Tomorrow's's blog will be...LEE DAY...just you wait!!


Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog! 




Ivan Giana and Sam Davis, Photo: Bryan Schimmel
 
Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!


Now, GO OUT AND DO SOMETHING FOR SOMEONE ELSE TOMORROW!

 Become A Facebook friend of mine!
Josh Nash and Sam
Please contribute to the DR. CAROL CHANNING  and HARRY KULLIJIAN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS

TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED HOLIDAY SEASON
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com

1 comment:

  1. A lovely article about a lovely new friend.

    After working on The MUNY's BIRDIE this summer and bonding over Michigan talk, Sam and I became good friends. We enjoy walks through central park, seeing shows, having tea, etc....wow-- we seem like bird ladies. But in all seriousness, I look forward to seeing his work and working with him again in the ever-so-near future.
    -Erik Heitz

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