This Saturday, (January 30th), Michael Feinstein will perform with The Florida Orchestra lead by new Music Director Michael Francis at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. It is the orchestra's Gala fundraising event. The program will feature the kind of music that has become synonymous with Feinstein himself, music from the Great American Songbook. That includes music by the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer and the songs of Frank Sinatra to celebrate the American icon's 100th anniversary.
He says while it's hard to choose a song to define his career, it would probably be Love is Here to Stay by brothers George and Ira Gershwin. Feinstein worked for Ira Gershwin for several years as an archivist, cataloging songs and discovering others. And he says he would pick that song because this music has given him so much. Feinstein says Ira Gershwin was among the great lyricists who like the others wanted to find a new way to express love. But Feinstein says Ira Gershwin honed his craft and worked hard to make it happen. Gershwin told him it took "about seven years to learn to write lyrics that were professional, fresh and original."
It's the kind of music Feinstein says was played in his home from the time he was born, and even before that. He took up the piano and by the age of five was playing the American songs he had heard by ear. "Even as a small child, I had such an emotional response and emotional reaction to this music."
These days he's busy recording, and serves as a member of the National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress.
Feinstein also has a supper club in New York City called Feinstein's/54 Below.
And is the founder of the Great American Songbook Foundation. Feinstein started an annual high school competition for intensives and master classes in the genre.
For young people hoping to follow in his footsteps, Feinstein says this, "If they want to be performers, find a place to perform." He says he played convalescent homes early on. And "any other place I could find, to hone my craft, to be in front of people, to have the experience...to perform, to connect."
Feinstein says he thinks the "art of true entertainment" has been lost, in part, because of technology.
Right now he's working on a musical, a theater piece, a couple of different recordings, conducting gigs and says it's great to have a lot of musical endeavors.