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Claude Conyers

(b Cedar Grove, LA, Dec 22, 1918; d New York, April 29, 1995). American dancer, choreographer, teacher, and company director. Having begun formal dance training with Katherine Dunham in Chicago, he made his first appearance on stage in Ruth Page’s 1934 production of La Guiablesse (The Devil Woman, 1933), with Dunham in the title role. He later performed as a soloist in Dunham’s company and continued his training with Martha Graham and with various ballet teachers in New York City. Recognized as a charismatic dancer in several companies, he formed his own troupe in 1947 and toured widely with a revue entitled Tropicana (1950–55). For this show he made his first significant work, Southern Landscape (1949; music, traditional spirituals), which launched his reputation as a brilliant choreographer. In later years he choreographed more than fifty ballets, some of which, centering on social issues and experiences of African Americans, became classics of the modern dance repertory. Among them are ...

Article

Beck  

Rob Jovanovic

[Campbell, Bek David; Hansen, Beck]

(b Los Angeles, CA, July 8, 1970). American rock singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer. He has recorded and performed songs in a wide range of genres including folk, country, bluegrass, grunge, indie, metal, rock, lounge, Latino, and noise. An obvious contributing factor to his eclectic tastes is his artistic and performer-laden family. His father David Campbell is a string player and arranger who has worked on string parts for some of his son’s more recent albums. His mother Bibbe Hansen worked with Andy Warhol at the artist’s studio the Factory in New York at an early age and was involved in the west coast punk scene during the 1980s. His grandfather Al Hansen was an artist and performer involved in the Fluxus movement. Beck grew up around rockers and in various ethnic neighborhoods which all contributed to his music education. After spending time at the end of the 1980s involved with New York’s anti-folk scene he returned west and began performing as often and wherever he could. These gigs involved him using a leaf-blower on stage, telling stories, setting fire to his acoustic guitar, and rocking out with a boom-box backing tape. His breakthrough came in ...

Article

John Bass

[Joseph Arnold]

(b Philadelphia, PA, July 29, 1945; d Woodbury, CT, July 22, 2008). American guitarist, composer, and producer. After graduating from high school, he moved to New York and played with a jazz trio in the club Chuck’s Compository. He also worked as a studio musician and jingle writer, which eventually led to collaborations with Gil Evans. Beck was among the first jazz guitarists to incorporate rock guitar techniques, including the use of a distorted tone, into his playing. He was also a key figure in the fusion movement of the 1970s, along with the Brecker Brothers and David Sanborn. In 1967 he participated in recording sessions with Miles Davis’s second quintet (alongside Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Tony Williams). Although the music from this session was not immediately released, it influenced Davis’s later fusion of jazz and rock on such albums as Bitches Brew. From the 1970s through the 2000s, Beck recorded and performed with many notable jazz musicians, including Woody Herman, Larry Coryell, Kai Winding, Don Grolnick, Sanborn, Atilla Zoeller, Red Mitchell, and John Abercrombie. He also invented and performed on an instrument he called the alto guitar. Beck remained an in-demand session guitarist throughout his life, performing on albums by popular musicians including James Brown and Paul Simon. He also founded and ran the company Code Works, which specialized in creating jingles and songs for television and radio commercials....

Article

J. Bryan Burton

(b Gallup, NM, Nov 8, 1947). Native American (Dakota) producer, vocalist, songwriter, and record label owner. During the 1970s and 80s he was founder, manager, and featured artist with Xit , the first commercially successful Native American rock band. Although his albums and performances were highly successful in Europe and among young Native Americans, the political nature of Bee’s lyrics prevented the group from achieving star status among mainstream audiences in the United States. Songs from albums such as Plight of the Redman (1972) and Silent Warrior (1973) presented the Native viewpoint about social and political issues using a combination of traditional chant and languages and Western rock. This early work led to an artist, writer, and producer contract with Motown Record’s Rare Earth label for Bee, where he wrote for artists including the Jackson Five, Michael Jackson, and Smokey Robinson as well as XIT. In ...

Article

Andra McCartney

(Marian )

(b Oshawa, ON, April 11, 1934). Canadian composer and radio producer. She studied composition with Weinzweig in Toronto, Foss and Copland at Tanglewood, and Maderna and Petrassi in Europe. Her early compositions tend towards neo-classicism, but, a pioneer in Canadian electro-acoustic music, she went on to compose post-serial, improvisational and collage works. Both her attention to timbre and her formal structures demonstrate the influence of Debussy and Xenakis.

Beecroft’s broadcasting career began in television (1954–9). She became a radio producer in 1963, originating numerous CBC-FM music series. In 1969 she began to produce freelance documentaries on Canadian composers and music technologies. Her programme The Computer in Music won the Major Armstrong Award for excellence in FM broadcasting (1976). From 1984 to 1987 she taught electronic music and composition at York University (Toronto), which awarded her an honorary Doctor of Letters in 1996. She has served as the president of Canadian Music Associates and Ten Centuries Concerts, and co-founded, with Robert Aiken, the New Music Concerts. Her numerous composition prizes include two Lynch-Staunton Awards from the Canada Council....

Article

Leonard Bernardo

(Andrejevich )

(b Novosibirsk, Russian SFSR [now Russia], March 16, 1947). Russian drummer, writer, broadcaster, and educator. He began playing jazz in 1962, and after graduating from the state medical institute in Novosibirsk in 1971 he pursued a dual career as a jazz musician and an obstetrician. In 1975 he established Tvorcheskoye Dhazovoye Ob’yedinenie (Creative Jazz Unity), the first association of musicians and jazz promoters east of the Urals. He performed with Vladimir Tolkachev in the Musical Improvising Trio (1975–9), with Igor Dmitriev in various groups (including, from 1977, Zolotoye Gody Dhaza (Golden Jazz Years), with Vytautas Labutis in the quartet SibLitMash (Siberian-Lithuanian Jazz Machine, 1980s), and with Vagif Sadykhov in another quartet (1998), while also working as a freelance with Vladimir Chekasin, Anatoly Vapirov, Igor Butman, Joe Locke, Paul Bollenback, and former members of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, among others. In 1990 he began to broadcast on radio, and in ...

Article

Kara Gardner

(b Detroit, March 28, 1866; d Chicago, Dec 6, 1945). American violinist, conductor, musical director, teacher, and composer. Bendix was born to Jewish parents who had emigrated from Germany. His father William was a music teacher. Bendix began formal study at the Cincinnati College of Music where, at the age of twelve, he performed with the college orchestra, directed by Theodore Thomas. This began a long association between the two men, leading to Bendix’s appointment as first violinist and concertmaster of the Theodore Thomas Orchestra in 1886. In August 1893 Thomas resigned his position as music director of the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition following a series of unsuccessful concerts. Bendix took Thomas’s place as conductor of the Exposition orchestra. This created tension between the two men, and Bendix left the Thomas orchestra in 1896. He went on to serve as conductor at the Manhattan Opera House and to conduct orchestras for world fairs in St. Louis (...

Article

Luis-Manuel Garcia

[John]

(b South Bronx, New York, Nov 7, 1957). American producer, songwriter, label manager, and DJ of Puerto-Rican descent. Although Benitez emerged from the disco and freestyle scenes of the late 1970s as an active DJ, his work as a producer and remixer spans many popular styles and genres, including house, pop, rock, and R&B. Benitez is known as an important producer, remixer, and romantic partner of Madonna during the early 1980s. On Madonna’s eponymous début album (1983), he produced one track (“Holiday”) and provided several remixes (“Borderline,” “Burning Up,” “Lucky Star,” “Physical Attraction”). The success of these projects led to remixes for the likes of Pat Benatar, Hall and Oates, Michael Jackson, Sheena Easton, Paul McCartney, and David Bowie. He also produced Whitney Houston’s top-ten hit “Love Will Save the Day” from her sophomore album, Whitney (1987). He has released his own albums (...

Article

Barry Kernfeld

[Benoit, Jean-Louis ]

(b Philadelphia, May 18, 1926; d nr Paris, Feb 10, 1997). American organist and leader. His father was from Martinique. A child prodigy, he grew up in Baltimore, where he was taught by his grandmother; his grandfather was a Baptist minister, and Bennett directed their church choir from the age of 12. After military service (1943–6), during which time he played tuba and thereby developed his ability to invent bass lines, he began his jazz career in Baltimore (1947), leading a piano trio modeled after that of Nat “King” Cole. In 1949, under the influence of Wild Bill Davis, he began to play organ, an instrument he used professionally from 1951. By 1956 he was performing in a style much closer to that of Jimmy Smith rather than Davis, and from 1957 to 1959 he toured the Midwest and the East Coast with his own hard-bop organ trio. The following year he moved to Paris, where he performed at the Blue Note with Jimmy Gourley or René Thomas in Kenny Clarke’s trio, accompanying numerous distinguished guest soloists (until ...

Article

Claude Conyers

(b Buffalo, NY, April 8, 1943; d Tucson, AZ, July 2, 1987).

American dancer, choreographer, and musical theater director. He first appeared on stage at age two, in a dance recital in his hometown. As a youngster, he studied ballet, tap, jazz, and modern dance, appeared in summer stock, and had his first directorial experience with high school musicals. He dropped out of school in 1960 to dance the role of Baby John in a European touring production of West Side Story, with choreography by Jerome Robbins. After a year abroad, he went to New York and found work as a chorus boy in shows choreographed by Ron Field, Michael Kidd, and Peter Gennaro. All these innovative choreographers influenced Bennett’s subsequent choreographic work, which included numerous television shows and summer stock productions.

On Broadway, Bennett’s first solo assignments as choreographer were for A Joyful Noise (1966; music by Oscar Brand and Paul Nassau) and ...