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Meet Harold Wheeler
February 4, 2021 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
If you don’t know Harold Wheeler, now is your chance! Meet this trailblazing Black artist who has built and shaped the musical theater landscape through his orchestrations of shows like Dreamgirls, Hairspray, and The Oscars. Spend time with Mr. Wheeler in this candid interview that will be moderated by Founding Member Kenny Seymour.
HAROLD WHEELER – Producer and composer Harold Wheeler was born William Harold Wheeler, Jr. on July 14, 1943 in St. Louis, Missouri to Roxetta McGee and William Harold Wheeler, Sr. At Antioch Baptist Church, where the members included Chuck Berry and Ike and Tina Turner, Wheeler played the piano for Sunday school at age five. Wheeler attended Turner Branch Elementary School and graduated from Sumner High School in 1960. He then attended Howard University, where he earned his B.A. degree in 1964. Wheeler earned his M.A. degree in music from Manhattan School of Music in 1968.
From 1968 to 1971, Wheeler worked as an assistant program director for CBS-FM Radio in New York. In 1971, Wheeler left CBS in order to compose his own music and coach other performers. That same year, composer Burt Bacharach hired Wheeler for his new musical Promises, Promises, making him the youngest conductor on Broadway. Wheeler was soon working with Michael Bennett composing dance music for A Chorus Line, going on to work with Bennett on Dreamgirls, Coco and SCANDAL. In 1971, Wheeler worked as musical director for Melvin Van Peeble’s groundbreaking musical Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death, and for Don’t Play Us Cheap in 1972. From 1971 to 1979, Wheeler composed jingles for Pepsi, Coca-Cola, TWA, United Airlines, McDonald’s and Folgers. Wheeler’s motion picture credits include: Straight Out of Brooklyn; Love! Valour! Compassion!; Spanish Judges; Cotton Comes to Harlem; Fortune and Men’s Eyes; Hercules; City Slickers; Keeping the Faith; and The Kid. Wheeler was arranger and/or music director for special events such as the 1995 and 1996 People’s Choice Awards; Motown 30 “What’s Goin On?”; the 1996 Olympics; the 1996 and 2000 Democratic National Conventions; 2002 American Film Institute Awards; and the 2003 Academy Awards. Throughout his career, Wheeler arranged and produced for Debbie Allen, Anita Baker, Peabo Bryson, Aretha Franklin, Della Reese, Nina Simone, B.B. King, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Freda Payne, Kathleen Battle, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Englebert Humperdinck, Irene Cara, Joe Cocker, Dizzy Gillespie, Gloria Gaynor, Chita Rivera, Whitney Houston, and Stephanie Mills, among scores of other performers.
Nominated for six Tony Awards for his work on the musicals, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Hairspray, The Full Monty, Swing!, Little Me and The Life, Wheeler won the Drama Desk Award for Hairspray for Best Orchestrations in 2003.
KENNY SEYMOUR – Kenny Seymour has developed a reputation as a consummate professional for his creativity, talent, versatility, exquisite musicianship, and his ability to navigate a wide variety of musical styles and genres with authenticity and integrity. He has worked with many of Broadway’s top producers, composers, playwrights, choreographers, and directors, a wide variety of artists in the recording industry, as well as many up and coming directors of film and television.
Currently the music director/music supervisor and arranger of Tony Award Winning hit Broadway Musical Ain’t Too Proud: The Life & Times of the Temptations, some of his other credits include: music director for the Tony Award winning Best Musical Memphis, orchestrator for Broadway’s Amazing Grace, music supervisor/arranger/orchestrator for MARLEY: A Premiere Musical, music director/supervisor/orchestrator for Carnegie Hall’s A Time Like This: Music For Change, as well as dance arranger/electronic music producer for Half-Time: The Musical, music director/arranger/incidental music for The Tallest Tree In The Forest, and music supervisor/orchestrator for Big Maybelle: Soul of the Blues.
As a composer Kenny has had his work performed by the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, received a Global Music Award for Best Original Score of the independent film Talking with the Taxman About Poetry and, composed and orchestrated music for the popular international children’s language program English Egg. Kenny has arranged and orchestrated music for shows on Fox, BET, and NBC as well as the Inaugural Ball for President Barack Obama. He has performed on stages around the world, from the legendary Apollo Theatre and Carnegie Hall, to the Montreux Jazz Festival, working with a wide variety of the industry’s top recording artists.
Kenny owes his start in the music industry to his late grandmother, entertainer Wilhelmina C. Pappy, his mother, Broadway actress Mary Seymour of Hair (original Broadway cast) and Raisin: The Musical, and his late father, Kenny W. Seymour formerly of the music group Little Anthony and the Imperials.
Kenny attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art, Manhattan School of Music, and Berklee College of Music.