One of the most widely talented performing artists, Bobby McFerrin has maintained a highly successful career while continuing to explore a broad range of musical styles and forms. He has won great recognition for his incomparable solo vocal appearances and best-selling recordings, as well as for his collaboration with today’s leading Jazz artists. His most recent activities include extensive touring both as a solo performer and with his own Jazz and vocal ensembles. The current focus of his musical endeavors, however, has been on symphonic conducting, to which he devotes considerable time each season. He has studied extensively with Gustav Meier, one of America’s foremost conducting teachers, and in 1990 made his debut with the San Francisco Symphony to celebrate his 40th Birthday. He has since returned to the San Francisco Symphony many times and gone on to leaded nearly every major American orchestra as well as many prestigious international ensembles. He was also part of the artistic leadership of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, which he joined in April 1994 as Creative Chair and recently departed to focus his energies on new projects. His conducting activities with that orchestra included subscription series, educational and outreach programs, tours and other special concerts.
McFerrin has appeared with and been re-engaged by the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, Washington’s National Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony and the Israel Philharmonic in addition to leading members of Hamburg’s NDR Orchestra, the Bayerischer Rundfunk Symphonieorchester, the London Philharmonic, Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Rotterdam Philharmonic and the Danish Radio Orchestra , among many other orchestras . He has also conducted a concert version of “Porgy and Bess” with the Opera Carolina and at the Mann Center and appeared at the Ravinia, Aspen, Blossom, and Verbier Festivals, and an upcoming engagement with the Vienna Philharmonic.
The 1997-1998 season marked a sabbatical year for Mr. McFerrin from all quest-conducting engagements except subscription concerts with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, including concert performances of “Porgy and Bess”. The 1996-1997 season saw him leading his first subscription series with the Baltimore Symphony, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony, and the New York Philharmonic and Washington’s National Symphony. He also made his debut with the Julliard Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall, in addition to conducting the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in programs including Haendel’s “Messiah” and the Fauré Requiem. During the 1998-99 season he conducted “Porgy and Bess” in concert with the New York Philharmonic and the National Symphony, lead performances of Haendel’s “Messiah» and the Mozart Requiem an toured Texas with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and returned to conduct two weeks of subscription concerts with the Baltimore Symphony
Born to two classical singers in New York City on March 11, 1950, Bobby McFerrin began studying musical theory at age 6, shortly before his family relocated to Los Angeles. The piano was his primary instrument in high school and during his studies at California State University/Sacramento and Cerritos College. After completing his formal education, he began to tour, first with the Ice Follies and then with a series of “Top 40” bands, cabaret acts and dance troupes.
It was not until 1977 that he was inspired to become a singer. After a period in New Orleans with a band called Astral Project, he moved to San Francisco where, among other important contacts, he met Bill Cosby, who arranged for McFerrin’s debut at the Hollywood Bowl as part of the 1980 Playboy Jazz Festival. A triumph in New York at the Kool Jazz Festival followed one year later, and shortly thereafter he signed with the Elektra/Musician label, which released his debut album, “Bobby McFerrin” in May 1982.
After touring with his own band and collaborating with such Jazz artists as Herbie Hancock and Wynton Marsalis, McFerrin took a major step in 1983 when he began unaccompanied concertizing. This led to a solo tour of Germany where the live album “The Voice” was recorded. This June 1984 release showcased McFerrin´s unique virtuosity and his ability to captivate an audience without supporting instruments or, in many cases, lyrics.
Through the 1980´s he continued to his circle of collaborators and award winning discography, working with Garrison Keillor, Jack Nicholson, Joe Zawinul, Manhattan Transfer (on “Another Night in Tunisia” which won two Grammies) and, for his Blue Note album “Spontaneous Inventions” (1986), Herbie Hancock, Jon Hendricks, Wayne Shorter and Robin Williams. He was featured in popular television commercials for Ocean Spray and Levi´s, sang the weekly theme for “The Cosby Show”, created an ACE Award winning long form video, “Spontaneous Invention», and sang the theme music for Bertrand Tavernier´s film “Round film “Round Midnight”, another Grammy-winning performance. With the solo album “Simple Pleasures” (EMI-Manhattan 1988) and the chart-topping single and video of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, McFerrin´s career reached a new plateau as he achieved unprecedented success as a one-man vocal ensemble.
The 1990 release of “Medicine Music», demonstrated McFerrin´s skills as an orchestrator, especially in his work with Voicestra. It was with that ten-voice group that he appeared on “Today”, “Arsenio Hall”, and “Evening at Pops”, where viewers also saw the beginnings of his newfound enthusiasm for conducting.
McFerrin´s recordings during the nineties include “Hush”, a duet album for Sony Classical with famed cellist YoYo Ma, for which the two artists combined to perform five original compositions by McFerrin and a unique arrangement of “Hush, Little Baby” for the title song, as well as several classical favorites. The “Hush” album was a bestseller on Billboards Classical Crossover Chart for over two years. Also released in 1992 were a new jazz album, “Play” (Blue Note), which featured McFerrin and pianist Chick Corea in a mix of standards and original collaborations that won McFerrin his 10th Grammy Award. His 1933 on-camera, five voice a cappella rendition of Henry Mancini´s “Pink Panther” theme for the movie “Son of the Pink Panther” won him wide acclaim and another Grammy nomination.
McFerrin released his first classical album, “Paper Music”, with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for Sony Classical in June 1995, and it remains on the Billboard chart of classical bestsellers. The album features music of Mendelssohn, Mozart, Bach, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky, among others, which he conducts and sings. A second Sony Classical album with the orchestra featuring Chick Corea performing two Mozart Piano Concertos was released in October 1996.
Bobby McFerrin´s recording, Bang Zoom, featuring his jazz trio of that name and accompaniment by members of the Yellow Jackets, was released in January 1996 by Blue Note. In 1997 Sony Classical released “Circlesongs», an album featuring his unique synthesis of world virtuoso vocal traditions.