"Call Me Adam" chats with musician David Geist about playing in the orchestra pits of Broadway's biggest shows, moving from Broadway to the hills of Santa Fe where he opened up his own cabaret room Geist Cabaret, coaching Linda Eder and Betty Buckley as well as his newest album Inside The Flame.
1. From playing in the orchestras of hit Broadway shows to being named one of Santa Fe's top 25 residents, you have been making music for most of your adult life. Who or what inspired you to become a musician? To be the life of the party, to get the girls, ya know, all that stuff that comes with being a teenager!
2. What was the first Broadway show you played in the orchestra for? What was that moment like for you? Did it live up to what you had imagined it would? CATS was the first Broadway show I ever played in. I had done the tour for almost two years so I knew the keyboard part pretty well. Still, when I performed and walked out of the stage door at the Winter Garden Theatre I was reminded of the line Diana Morales says in A CHORUS LINE, "I’ll never be old enough to come out of that stage door," and realized that just happened.
3. You have played for some of Broadway's biggest shows: Cats, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, The Lion King, Wicked, The Producers, The Boy From Oz, Sunset Boulevard and Parade. What did you enjoy most about playing on Broadway? The sense of collaboration and community you feel when you’re a part of something so wonderful. Certainly, playing for THE BOY FROM OZ and having Hugh Jackman include you as part of his shtick while he’s channeling Peter Allen was pretty memorable!
4. In 2005, you left the great white way for the mountains Santa Fe. What made you want to make this change in your life? How do you feel this change has improved your life? When thinking about this change, were you influenced by the song "Santa Fe" from Rent? You just know when you’ve hit a wall and want to "break through to something new," quoting Sondheim right now. The reception I’ve felt since moving to Santa Fe has helped my art grow into something personal and unique that couldn’t have happened in any other way. Regarding a theme song, "Santa Fe" from NEWSIES was popping through my head a lot when I moved out here!
5. Since moving to Santa Fe, you have opened up your own cabaret room, Geist Cabaret. What made you want to open up your own cabaret room? Was this always the plan for you when you decided to move to Santa Fe? I actually did want to open a music room before I made the move to Santa Fe, so I wasn’t surprised when the pieces began to fall into place. I wanted to create a space where I could program and celebrate the music I love which is the Great American Songbook, invite friends to come perform here, and in a sense, become a community builder.
6. What has been the best part about having your own cabaret room? What are some challenges you face running your own cabaret? The artistic freedom is the greatest reward. Cabaret rooms are usually synonymous with restaurants, so part of the challenge is to bridge the world of show business with the service industry.
7. In addition to playing music, creating your own music (as you just released your latest CD Inside The Flame), you have also coached some of my favorite singers including Linda Eder and Betty Buckley (both of whom I've had the pleasure of interviewing for "Call Me Adam.") What did you enjoy most about working with them? What did you learn from coaching them? Linda Eder is a wonderful actress and musician and has Streisand-like qualities in her voice that haven’t been heard onstage in years. Regarding Betty Buckley, she is one of the most powerful theatre singers Broadway has ever seen. Betty connects and incorporates character into her core- emotional voice at all times, and she gave me an inside view to that world. Betty mentored me during a time in my life that I will always be grateful for and introduced me to my piano teacher Kenny Werner.
8. With the release of your latest CD Inside The Flame, you went with a sound that is more George Winston than Broadway. Why did you want to go this route with this album? Categorizing music can very tricky. This music has spacious, meditative passages that could fit into a New Age label, thus the term "George Winston-like." But I feel this music has a lot of structure, dynamics and theatricality that could easily make it appeal to theater, pop, and film score listeners as well. I want to do scoring. In fact, I'm talking to ABC now about scoring a news special.
9. What is your favorite part of the creative process in producing an album? It’s such a cumulative experience, composing the material, recording it, titles, artwork- ultimately it’s about telling a story, and in this case an extremely vulnerable and personal story, because all these pieces are originals.
10. What have you learned about yourself from being a musician? Not to take the whole thing too seriously!
11. What's the best advice you've ever received? Do your art for others.
12. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? One of my favorite movies is Back To The Future, so time-travel would be pretty neat!
13. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it and what ingredients would you put in it? I’d call it an "Espresso Dave," two shots so you could wake up!
David Geist has created himself as one of the keepers of The Great American Songbook. Whether he's playing on Broadway or in Santa Fe, his talent and art is undeniable.
David Geist was a Broadway musician, who played piano and keys in the pits of many shows. His credentials are impressive - Les Miserables, Cats, Miss Saigon, Passion, Wicked and The Lion King all were all his homes over the years. David says one of his career defining moments was when Stephen Sondheim congratulated him on his work in the musical Passion.
In 2005, when the Broadway hit The Boy from Oz ended, David, the boy from New York City, packed his bags and headed west. David says he was looking for a different quality of life. Santa Fe was quick to embrace one of Broadway's greatest talents. He quickly began wooing the locals and Santa Fe tourists. It wouldn't take long before Pranzo, a local favorite Italian eatery, took note of David's talent and teamed up with him. Pranzo Geist Cabaret opened in 2006.
The Santa Fean magazine named David one of Santa Fe's top 25 favorite residents. David plans to keep recording original compositions and playing at his cabaret room. He looks forward to touring more often.