Keyboardist Michael Arrom studied with Billy Joel's MD David Rosenthal, toured with guitar legend Steve Vai, and is continuing to make a name for himself wherever he performs. He's a young talent on the rise, and that's why he's our TALENT SCOUT Artist of the Week.
NAME: Michael Arrom
HOMETOWN: I was born and raised in New Jersey, but I currently live in Los Angeles, CA.
MUSICAL TRAINING: I’m a graduate of the USC Thornton Popular Music Program, where I studied with Patrice Rushen. I have 12 years of classical music training, mainly with the great Julliard-trained pianist, Michelle Chen-Kuo. Although I love classical music, my heart was always in Rock ’n Roll. I spent my early days learning rock tunes by ear. My mentor, David Rosenthal, later helped me polish that passion into a true professional skill set. I owe my success to a wonderful group of teachers who are too numerous to mention individually, but they’re all special to me.
FIRST GIGS: I played my first gigs at the historic Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ. They had a home-grown version of “School of Rock.” I met many other talented, young musicians there. Every season, we’d put on a show at the Basie. We mainly played for our parents and grandparents, but we had that big stage to ourselves. It was so much fun!
MUSICAL INFLUENCES: As a child, Billy Joel gave me a reason to want to play the piano. His was the first music I ever heard. My early tastes expanded to include the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Frank Sinatra, and Brad Paisley.
WHAT I’M LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW: I recently discovered the Fania All-Stars, a killer salsa group from the 1970’s. I’ve also been checking out the new Imagine Dragons album. I’m a fan of Alex da Kid’s production work, and I’m also a huge fan of John Legend’s Darkness and Light album. Bruno Mars is on my listening list as well. He’s such a great entertainer.
MY BIG BREAK: My first break came when the Grammy Foundation invited me to perform on live national television with Keith Urban at the 2012 American Country Awards. Just a few weeks later, David Rosenthal introduced me to [famed guitarist] Steve Vai. Steve asked me to audition with his nearly impossible piece “Angel Food.” I rose to the challenge and eventually spent my summer between high school and college touring Australia, New Zealand, and Asia with Steve Vai and his band.
LATEST ALBUM: I’m still busy writing my story through music. Meanwhile, I’m helping indie artists with their studio projects. One of my recent favorites is from my friend, Julia Ryan. I’m the MD for her band and there’s a ton of great material coming.
FAVORITE KEYBOARDS AND WHY? If I could detach myself from reality, I would always go on the road with a Steinway D and a Hammond B3 organ. Those classic instruments have so much character and versatility. I love the Korg Kronos. I’ve been through everything with that keyboard. My touring rig consists of a Kronos and a laptop running Apple MainStage. I’ve invested in a library of great plugins from Arturia, Native Instruments, and Spectrasonics. I love the hardware product, but I can’t beat the convenience and flexibility of having so much sound tucked into my laptop. It’s a powerful tool for sculpting sound. I’ve been playing a lot of clubs in the LA area, and the Arturia KeyLab has been my main grab-and-go controller. Super light, very flexible with programming; perfect for guerilla-style gigging.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU? I’m currently working as a music director for some very talented up-and-coming artists in LA. I’m happiest in situations where I can help a band shape a distinctive sound. It’s hard work, but we’re making good progress and getting noticed by the right people.
ADVICE TO THE NEXT GENERATION: Make sure you build a great foundation. Although not immediately obvious, Hanon and Czerny are your friends. To this day, they’re still a part of my regular warmup routine. Also, be open-minded to many different kinds of music. You don’t have to like everything, but don’t be judgmental about the tastes of others. Some music speaks to different people at different times.
Find-out more at www.michaelarrom.com