Don was trained as a classical pianist at Indiana University, where he studied with the internationally renowned concert pianist Abbey Simon. While at Indiana, Don became interested in jazz and was taken under the wing of jazz pedagogue David Baker. Upon graduating with a degree in piano performance, he moved to New York City, and within a year was conducting his first show on Broadway, "Jesus Christ Superstar." Since then, he has enjoyed a busy career as a conductor, pianist, and composer. Don has found success on Broadway, the national stage, and television, as an accompanist, musical director, performer and teacher, in classical music, jazz, popular music, and movie and television scoring. He has worked with such artists as Peggy Lee, Barbara Cook, Mary Cleere Harran, Karen Akers, Betty Buckley, Leslie Uggams, Chita Rivera, John Williams, Ricky Martin, and Jose Carreras.
In addition to "Jesus Christ Superstar," Don's other Broadway credits include "Dancin'" directed by Bob Fosse, "Sweet Charity" starring Debbie Allen and directed by Bob Fosse, "Little Johnny Jones" starring Donny Osmond, "Teaneck Tanzi" starring Deborah Harry and Andy Kaufman, "Anything Goes" starring Patti LuPone, and "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," among others. Don has conducted for the national companies of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and "Kiss of the Spiderwoman," starring Chita Rivera.
Don is the Artistic Director of the "Singers Forum," a non-profit musical oasis in New York City, providing the highest quality vocal training for New York City Residents. Their continuing mission is to engage a diverse student body of singers dedicated to the development and appreciation of the vocal arts. With a strong emphasis on vocal technique, combined with numerous performance opportunities in a safe and supportive environment, Singers Forum strives to offer a full array of private instruction and group classes for both professional and personal growth.
As a jazz performer, Don has played with some of the best in the game, including drummers Jeff Hamilton, Peter Erskine, and Carl Allen; trumpeters Randy Brecker and Warren Vache; legendary guitarist Mundel Lowe; saxophonists Jesse Davis, Lou Marini, and Vincent Haring; and flutist Hubert Laws. He has also played with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra and with the Mingus Band.
As a composer, Don has co-written scores for HBO documentaries with his partner, Emmy winner Patty Stotter; he continues to write and orchestrate with Ms. Stotter in their production company "Liquid Architecture." Don composed the music for the off-off Broadway show "Flypaper," with lyricists Cheryl Paley and Larry Pelligrini (of "Tony and Tina’s Wedding"). He has composed over 50 songs with lyricists Laura Theodore, Sara Krieger of "The New York Voices," and Carol Hall of "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."
Don continues his interest and involvement in classical music as well. He is a member of the trio "Tremani," with the principal clarinetist and bassoonist of the Buffalo Philharmonic. He continues to compose serious contemporary music and of course to perform as a freelance musician. He has conducted the Pittsburgh, Dallas, and Syracuse Symphony Orchestras.
1. Who or what inspired you to become a pianist, accompanist, and musical director? My father was an amateur trumpet player and he advised me to learn how to play the piano, because it was an orchestral instrument and would provide more opportunities if decided to become a professional musician.
2. What do you get from working on a Broadway show that you don't get from working on your own music or with a specific performer? The chance to work with a lot of musicians, actors, dancers, directors, choreographers, composers, orchestrators and lighting and sound designers all at the same time on one specific project.
3. What is your favorite part in the creative process of making an album and of working with a specific performer for a concert? I love the entire process, from choosing the material, to creating an arrangement/orchestration for the particular performer to recording the material in the studio and mixing all of the components to create something really special.
4. Who is the one person you haven't worked with that you would like to? That’s a tough one. Tony Bennett, Streisand definitely Sting.
5. How did you get involved with the Singers Forum and what made you want to be the Artistic Director? I met Andy Anselmo our founder at a summer symposium in Fredonia, NY and kept in touch with him after the engagement was completed. Due to the untimely death of Phil Campanella, the former artistic director, I applied for the position because I thought that my experience would be an asset to Singers Forum, and I felt that I could create an artist faculty that would attract a more professional clientele.
6. What are you looking forward to most about going on the road again with Leslie Uggams? What makes you such a great team? I’ve been Leslie’s music director for over 20 years and her ability to choose material that works for her with my input as an arranger is a relationship that I treasure. We click on a level that is difficult to put into words. She is an amazing performer who brings an incredible amount of musicality and experience to everything that she does and doing this show with her in Albany with musicians, some of whom I’ve worked with before and some I haven’t met yet, will be a real kick!
7. How did you come up with the title and concept for your debut album "Together" and what excites you most about it's release? My close friend and the drummer on the album, Michael Berkowitz, came up with that title and I think it’s perfect. Mike had been urging me for years to make a mainstream jazz album and when I came up with the arrangement of Styne and Sondheim’s “Together Wherever We Go" from "Gypsy," it sort of set the tone for the whole album. I’d personally like to thank Michael and bassist David Finck for all of their help in creating an album that I feel is truly unique.
8. Favorite place to write/compose music? The house that my father built in Fredonia, NY.
9. Favorite website? Hmm, there are so many, but if I had to choose, Musicnotes.com! What a resource!
10. "Mary" or "Rhoda"? Rhoda...Of course!
11. What have you learned about yourself from your artistry? I’ve learned that if I don’t know how to orchestrate or play something right of the bat, I can learn! I am teachable.
12. What's the best advice you've ever received? A teacher of mine once told me to learn how to play in as many different styles of music as possible. From Jazz to Broadway to Classical to everything in between and that has been a tremendous asset to my career.
13. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? I’m not touching that one with an eleven-foot pole!