- 1956-09-07 -
Michael Jay Feinstein (born September 7, 1956) is an American singer, pianist, and music revivalist. He is an interpreter of, and an anthropologist and archivist for, the repertoire known as the Great American Songbook. He currently serves as Artistic Director for The Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, Indiana.
Feinstein was born and raised in Columbus, OH, where he started playing the piano by ear at age 5. He worked in local piano bars after graduating from high school and moved to LA when he was 20, where he was introduced to Ira Gershwin in July 1977. Feinstein became Gershwin’s assistant for six years; this assignment led to six years of researching, cataloguing and preserving the unpublished sheet music and rare recordings in Gershwin's home which earned him access to numerous unpublished Gershwin songs, many of which he has since performed and recorded.
By the mid-1980s, Feinstein was a nationally known cabaret singer-pianist famed for being a dedicated proponent of the Great American Songbook. In 1986, he recorded his first CD, Pure Gershwin (1987), a collection of music by George and Ira Gershwin. He followed this in quick succession with Live at the Algonquin (1986); Remember: Michael Feinstein Sings Irving Berlin (1987); Isn't It Romantic (1988), a collection of standards and his first album backed by an orchestra; and Over There (1989), featuring the music of America and Europe during the First World War.
By 1988, Feinstein was starring on Broadway in a series of in-concert shows and in the early 1990s, Feinstein embarked on an ambitious songbook project wherein he performed an album featuring the music of a featured composer, often accompanied by the composer; he proceeded to release a number of albums on several labels through 1989. In 1999, Feinstein lent his name to a new nightclub in New York located in the Regency Hotel, as Feinstein's at the Regency became a venue for sophisticated cabaret entertainers including its namesake. In the late 1990s, Feinstein recorded two more albums of Gershwin music: Nice Work If You Can Get It: Songs by the Gershwins (1996) and Michael & George: Feinstein Sings Gershwin (1998).
In 2000, the Library of Congress appointed Feinstein to its newly formed National Recording Preservation Board, an organization dedicated to safeguarding America's musical heritage. Feinstein earned his fifth Grammy Award nomination in 2009 for The Sinatra Project, his CD celebrating the music of “Ol’ Blue Eyes.” His Emmy Award-nominated TV special Michael Feinstein – The Sinatra Legacy, which was taped live at the Palladium in Carmel, IN, aired across the country in 2011. Feinstein was named Principal Pops Conductor for the Pasadena Symphony in 2012 and made his conducting debut in June 2013 to celebrated critical acclaim. He launched an additional Pops series at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in Palm Beach, Florida in 2014. Feinstein's memoir The Gershwins and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs about working for Ira Gershwin was published in the fall of 2012, accompanied by a CD of Feinstein performing the Gershwin brothers' music discussed in the book. Feinstein opened his new nightclub, Feinstein's at the Nikko in San Francisco's Nikko Hotel in May 2013, Feinstein's/54 Below at New York's Studio 54 in 2015 and also plans for a future nightclub in London.