Ever wonder what it’s like to be in a Broadway show? How about as a member of the pit?
Andre Danek, composer and brand strategist, is the keyboardist for Memphis and an old college friend of mine. I was in a production of, “Where’s Mamie?” in college (don’t ask…) and I got to know him very well as he was yelling at me to sing better – ha! Now he’s on Broadway and found time in his busy schedule to chat and share himself with you dear readers…
Tell us a little but about yourself…
My name is originally spelled Andrzej because I was born and raised in Poland. I spent most of my life in music schools except the three and a half years at The Wroclaw University Of Technology studying physics. During my fourth year there I decided to move to New York to start anew. I waved goodbye and enrolled in the City College of New York majoring in Jazz Vocal Performance.
During my sophomore year, the theater department was putting on Dreamgirls and somehow I ended up directing the music. Shortly after I became staff musical director at CCNY and later at Harlem Repertory Theater. At the same time I started interning at a music house as an assistant/composer (mostly assistant) and now I have a full time job as composer and brand strategist. I write and produce songs for different artists and I play Keyboard 2 in Memphiswhenever Jason (the associate conductor) can’t.
Dreamgirls was one fantastic show! How did you get into music?
Even though I started attending music school at the age of five, I didn’t really get into music for another ten years. Back then music used to terrify me, all the exams, competitions, memorizing pages of music, sweaty hands before recitals – it was all very nerve wracking.
I guess “getting into music” came as an accident. One year I was visiting Paris with a bunch of other kids and our guardian decided to let us hang out around the Champs Elysee for a few hours with no supervision. I remember my parents had given me some money in case I would need to buy something important like a band-aid or throat medicine. So naturally I went to this gigantic Macy’s like store determined to spend it! I had no idea what to buy so I ended up picking up a random CD from some 3-floor music section. I got back on the bus super serious because I did some “real shopping in Paris.”
That CD turned out to be “Another Level” by Blackstreet. I don’t think I made one friend during that trip, I was constantly either listening to song number 7, 5 and later 19 or running down to the store to get batteries, but it didn’t matter. That was the first time I realized that music could give me so much joy. From that day forward my plan was set to somehow be a part of this R&B phenomena. I knew I had to leave Poland to do this.
How long have you been studying music?
I started when I was five and I’m still studying. It never ends.
What instruments can you play?
I play keyboards and I sing if you consider voice an instrument.
What was it like the first time you played at Memphis?
I will never forget, and trust me, I have managed to forget some pretty big things!
It was an out of body experience partially because I had very little time to get ready, I mean I had received the music two months prior but… It went from me practicing at my own pace to “Hey, you’re on this Wednesday” – I had five days.
So I remember sitting in my chair about 30 seconds to the “light cue” and thinking that it wasn’t a good idea but 2 hours and 15 minutes later when I realized that I played through all the difficult cues. I finally dared to look to my right and I saw fifteen hundred faces including my lovely girlfriend sitting in the front row. I took a deep breath and thought to myself ‘Wow, this is really a dream coming true and I still have a whole song, bows and the exit music to enjoy it, and I wonder what they tag big pieces of the set with…’ and almost missed my cue.
I love that story! Did you ever think you would play on Broadway?
Yes, I remember walking around Times Square during my first stay in New York many years ago and thinking that I should just go and ask them if they need a singer or something…I had absolutely no clue.
What’s next for your career?
Good question. Well, there’s really no way to tell but I can offer a guess: I will try to stop listening to that Blackstreet album and maybe try to make a friend.
On that note, rest assured, Mr. Danek has many friends and is loved by them all.
Send him some comments folks!
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