Acclaimed musical director and pianist, Michael Orland is currently on the road accompanying the beautiful and equally gifted, Kristin Chenoweth on The Art of Elegance tour. When he’s not traveling the country you can find him collaborating with other industry giants and helping aspiring artists launch their careers. Orland has worked on numerous television projects including NBC’s Little Bigshots, America’s Got Talent, American Juniors and Fox’s hit series, American Idol. Orland is also the music director for the annual stage production of the touring company of The Radio City Christmas Spectacular and The Lythgoe Family Pantomimes in Los Angeles. Chenoweth and Orland will make their return to Southern CA at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, April 15th. I got to chat with the virtuoso recently about his love for the piano, working with Kristin & more!
At what age did you learn how to play the piano?
What does an arranger and musical director do?
You work with singers to find the best way for them to perform a song. One of my favorite things to do is take an old song and change it up with new treatments. It’s what Kristin [Chenoweth] did with her new album. You take the standard songbook and put your own stamp on it. Basically, it’s me trying to show people how to make a song their own.
You were the pianist, arranger and associate music director on Fox’s American Idol. Please tell us more about that.
When I got the call for American Idol, I was actually booked for another project. A few weeks later, I called them back and said yes. I ended up doing the show for 15 seasons in 14 years. Nobody knew what the show was in the first season and it just became so huge. Again, the big thing on Idol was for the contestants to change up the arrangements of their song selections. But there was always a catch-22 with the judges. For example, they would advise against doing Mariah or Whitney unless you changed it up but later say “why did you change up a perfectly good song? It was no winning on the show.
How much input did you have on their song choices?
Which Idol contestant(s) did you feel were voted off too soon?
So many of them. But the first one that comes to mind is Jennifer Hudson in Season 3. The week she got voted off she sang Elton John’s Circle of Life and I remember thinking to myself “that girl was brilliant.” Of course today she is a huge star and I’ve gotten to work with her again and again. It’s all about the timing for them. There were many contestants that didn’t even make it onto television that were jazz or musical theatre vocalists and were amazing but just not right for Idol.
What would you consider your career highlights?
How did you and Kristin first meet?
What’s your favorite part about The Art of Elegance tour?
Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?
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