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
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 Memphis whenever 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
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.