Todd Schroeder is arguably one of the hardest-working and most noteworthy music directors performing in the world of show business today.
For over two decades, Schroeder, who was named BroadwayWorld’s “Musical Director of the Year” in 2013, has acted as music director for literally hundreds upon hundreds of Hollywood stars and legends of the theatre world. The list has included notable musicians and cherished stage performers, as well as more uniquely, television and film actors who aren’t normally known for their singing abilities, but have leveraged Todd’s talents to enhance that of their own.
Schroeder’s ability to work within the tight constructs of the latter category has made him one of the most remarkable and coveted music directors in the world, gaining the trust and respect of entertainment icons, with an unparalleled career that spans over 20 years.
Just a sampling of the countless stars Todd has worked with has included iconic stars of stage and screen that have inspired millions across generational divides, including Dame Angela Lansbury, Sir Tom Jones, Liza Minnelli, Grace Potter, Beth Behrs (2 Broke Girls), Emmy Rossum (Shameless), Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family), Josh Gad (The Book of Mormon), Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting (The Big Bang Theory), Laura Bell Bundy (Legally Blonde: The Musical), Beau Bridges, Jason Alexander (Seinfeld), Joey McIntyre (The McCarthys) and many, many more.
Since he first began professionally musical directing by the age of 18, Schroeder has proven he has a prodigious ability to masterfully and intimately connect with artists from all walks of life, allowing him the opportunity to work with some of the world’s finest talents.
Todd has a special knack for intricately collaborating with an artist and finding the perfect sweet spot between what they would like to say and how best to vocally present this message musically in an even more unforgettable way by finding the raw power in their own incomparable gifts.
“One of the greatest rewards from this career of mine has been to work with artists whose work I have admired so much and to collaboratively share a similar passion for the art,” Schroeder says.
Schroeder has also gotten the opportunity to present his talents as music director supporting other artists on some of the most celebrated daytime and late night talk shows of the past 20 years, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Rosie O’Donnell Show, The Late Late Show, and Access Hollywood. He’s also appeared as part-music director, part-sidekick on a daytime talk show pilot for Buena Vista Television.
Over the years, the musical luminary has even acted as musical and vocal director for various live performance shows for internationally renowned theme parks such as Walt Disney, Universal Studios Hollywood and Japan, and Knott’s Berry Farm, among others.
Schroeder shares, “One of my favorite moments working in a theme park was when I was brought in to musical direct the Broadway hit show Wicked at Universal Studios Japan. It was the first time a Broadway show was going to be presented in a theme park and I got to work with the show’s creator Stephen Schwartz and help figure out how to present this amazing show in a new format. I was so honored to be apart of this ground-breaking experience.”
Schroeder has now once again been asked to be part of the casting team representing Universal Studios Japan on a global 10-city audition tour reaching from Sydney, Australia to London, England, to Hollywood, searching for new talent for the theme parks’ myriad production shows. Todd has served as music director for many of the shows at Universal Studios Japan and has been part of their worldwide casting team for over 13 years seeing more than 20,000 singers, dancers and actors.
Schroeder has also performed his role as music director for a number of multi-performer philanthropic benefit events, including the Todd Schroeder Young Artist Grant Benefit Concert, which he founded over two decades ago; State Farm’s Remarkable Talent Show; the Alzheimer’s Association’s “A Night At Sardi’s” celebrity musical revue; Camp Bravo’s “Back to Bravo” Benefit Concert; the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s “Les Girls Benefit”; “The Thalians” all-star tribute benefit raising awareness for mental health, honoring the music of Motown legend Smokey Robinson, and the one-night-only “Benefit for the Philippines,” which supported the American Red Cross’ efforts to assist the people of the Philippines to recover and rebuild from the 2013 typhoon.
Throughout his fabled career beginning in his small hometown of Sonora, California, nestled in the Sierra Nevada foothills, all the way to Los Angeles, where he lives today, Todd has had the honor of being invited to perform with distinguished acts including the Boston Pops Orchestra, Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Duke Ellington Orchestra, and has performed at illustrious venues like Carnegie Hall and The White House.
In addition to being a world-famous music director to the stars, Todd is also a performer and composer himself, having written five original albums and a number of original musicals, as well as having producing various albums for other artists. In addition to composing his own music, Schroeder has also composed original music for a variety of popular television shows, including “Guiding Light,” and shows and TV movies on Lifetime, Showtime and Cinemax.
Todd also recently musical directed and performed in Sam Harris’ acclaimed show, HAM: A Musical Memoir, which played a three-week run at New York’s Ars Nova Theater in January. The show was directed by Tony winner Billy Porter (Kinky Boots), and produced by Broadway producer Suzi Dietz. Todd has served as Music Director for Sam Harris for more than 20 years. Todd also co-created and performed in the Jason Alexander show Other People’s Stories, which premiered in Los Angeles in spring 2015. Todd has collaborated and musical directed with Jason for more than ten years.
By working across such a wide spectrum of artistic disciplines, Schroeder has further been able to cultivate his genius ability to understand the anatomy of music, allowing him to meticulously identify the intricacies of all different types of songs in order to help tailor each arrangement to its vocal presenter.
This winter, Todd will officially be joining the superstar retro-pop group Postmodern Jukebox as a music director and pianist. Created by Scott Bradlee, Postmodern Jukebox has been referred to as a YouTube sensation for capturing millions of views online, including for its cover of Lorde’s “Royals” with more than 12 million views. In keeping with the group’s rotating arrangement, Todd can be seen appearing on select shows while on the group’s upcoming world tour.
Todd also appears in the new Postmodern Jukebox video for the song, “My Heart Will Go On,” released in early August, which has garnered more than one million views and praise from Titanic actor Kate Winslet, artist Celine Dion and actor Ashton Kutcher. Over the past two years, Postmodern Jukebox has been hurled into the musical and pop culture stratospheres, earning incredible acclaim from critics and audiences for its imaginative vintage jazz, ragtime and swing re-workings of modern pop anthems by way of a rotating collective of talented musicians and performers. Many of these rotating musicians have been viral sensations themselves, such as Puddles the Clown, and well-known names, such as American jazz musician Dave Koz, American Idol alums Blake Lewis and Casey Abrams, and Broadway superstar Shoshana Bean.
“It is so great to be a growing part of this new adventure and the opportunity really utilizes everything that I love to do,” he continues. “Musical directing for talented singers and musicians, playing the hell out of the piano and performing for sold out crowds all around the world.”
Hi Todd, Please tell us a little about yourself?
My manager likes to refer to me as a ‘multi-hyphenate.’ I am a musical director-composer-arranger-producer-performer. I have worked in the music industry my entire adult life and I love doing it all!
What’s your background?
I am a native of California. I was born in Long Beach and raised in a little Northern California town called Sonora, which is at the base of the beautiful Sierra Nevada Foothills about 60 miles from Yosemite National Park. I remember listening to my older brother practice his piano lessons and then after he was done, I would climb up onto the piano bench and play what I had just heard by ear. My folks decided I should start piano lessons at the age of four. I took to it immediately. When I was eight, I auditioned and landed the role of Huckleberry Finn in a musical version of “Tom Sawyer.” For three years I performed in all of the musicals I could. I loved acting and singing and playing piano. And I started composing and writing songs. I knew then that I wanted to make a living creating and performing for the rest of my life.
Have there been any other members of your family involved in the industry?
I come from a very musical family. My father played piano in clubs when he was in his early 20s and my mom still plays piano and clarinet. Though neither of them ever made a living from playing music, they certainly showed me the passion and respect for the craft and they have always encouraged me to follow my dreams.
You have been the musical director for several big names in Hollywood and Broadway. Can you tell us about that?
After playing and singing solo in clubs across the US and in Japan, I moved to Hollywood when I was 24. I started performing around town and was asked to musical direct a few celebrity benefit shows. Then I was asked by some of those celebrity performers to musical direct their own shows and tours. Getting to work intimately with amazing established artists showed me just how hard each of them worked to become a “big name.” My job as their musical director is to recognize their innate abilities, bring out their best performances and make them sound fantastic on the stage. I have continued to musical direct high-profile charity fundraisers for several non-profits whose causes resonate with me. I have been privileged to be involved with “An Evening at Sardi’s,” which raises money for the Alzheimer’s Association; “Les Girls,” which raises money for the National Breast Cancer Coalition; and “Camp Bravo,” a performing arts camp for teenage kids. I have also performed at the “Elton John AIDS Benefit” in Atlanta and many other wonderful organizations doing great work for our world.
Who has been the best client with which you have worked?
Gosh, that reminds me a bit of being asked who my favorite child is. Each performer with whom I have had the opportunity to work brings something unique to both the working collaboration, as well as to their performance, and that’s what I love about working with them. Whether it’s Jessica Sanchez (“American Idol”) who is 20 years old with a voice filled with so much depth you would swear she was a former legend reincarnated, or Tom Jones, who at the age of 75 is still singing with the same passion he did 50 years ago (and in the same keys), I learn something from each one. And when they perform what we have worked on and the audience adores their performance, this is one of my greatest joys as a musical director.
Do you support any charities?
The one I am most proud of is the “Todd Schroeder Young Artist Grant.” I started it in 1995 as an annual scholarship set up to recognize and financially support graduating high school students who want to pursue a career in the arts. I produce a celebrity benefit concert every year to raise money for it. Past performers have included Jason Alexander, Joy Enriques, Rita Coolidge and Sam Harris, to name a few.
What’s the best advice you have followed?
“Be prepared.” I was told this by Carl Anderson (Judas of Jesus Christ Superstar) when I was 17. He came to my high school and performed for us. After the concert, he generously took the time to talk to me. We sat at the piano and I talked about what I wanted to do with my life. He advised me to learn everything I could and be ready for any situation. He said, “We may not always have control of the opportunities that are presented our way but we sure can be ready for them.”
How was it performing with the Boston Pops, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and the Duke Ellington Orchestra?
Each situation has been so unique and rewarding. I have performed with the Boston Pops a few times now as musical director for performers Sam Harris and Jason Alexander. The “Pops” are the consummate American symphony and their conductor Keith Lockhart is absolutely brilliant. When I performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, I was musical directing for the legendary Angela Lansbury. We performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in their annual televised Christmas show in four shows for nearly 90,000 people. I have never heard a choir sing with such precision and passion. And the Duke Ellington Orchestra was unique unto its own. It was for the “Paul Robeson Awards” at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. I was musical directing for Sam Harris and we were on right before Whitney Houston. We were determined to hold our own and so we really “threw it down.” The orchestra picked up on our energy and that night’s performance went through the roof. I am so grateful to continue to work with universally amazing musicians.
What was it like performing at the White House?
As you can imagine, security was tight at the White House. This event was right after 9/11, so it was even tighter. After all of the clearances with the FBI, we were let in. It really is overwhelming and to see the history inside… and I played the official White House piano – a custom made Steinway with American Eagle supports. Perfection. Can you imagine, I played “Great Balls Of Fire” on the White House piano!! I will say that walking through the rooms and down the halls of the White House was an honor I will never forget.
What is the key to your success?
The key of F.
Just kidding. It is interesting to watch an artist become an overnight sensation either from YouTube or a TV show such as “American Idol” or “The Voice.” And then to follow the success of these artists as they navigate their newfound careers. Most of them stay around for about fifteen minutes and then we never hear from them again. I am still a believer of building your brand from the ground up. And that takes time. I believe that is a big part of my current success. My first professional gig was in a club called “Sonora Joe’s,” when I was 14. I have been doing this my whole life. I’ve paid many dues and learned many aspects of what it takes to have a long career in this business. I also have a great team that I work with that keeps me focused on what I am doing, has a 30,000-foot-view on what to prepare for next, and helps communicate to the world what I am doing professionally and with whom. Looking forward while being present is certainly a necessary tool for success in any business.
Do you have kids? If so, what is the best advice you have for them?
I have two beautiful daughters, ages 10 and 12. They are so supportive of what I do and have been bitten by the performing bug, as well. Whether they want a future career in the music industry or not is up to them. But I do tell them that with anything, “Hope for the best; Prepare for the worst.” And “Love what you do. If you can do it for a living, even better.” Also, “Respect everyone you come across; They all have a purpose.” They get a lot of advice from me! In fact, I wrote a song for them called “Lessons In Life.” It’s filled with advice based on lessons learned. The inspiration for the song came one day when I was walking my girls to school. My oldest girl was showing me how she could walk backwards. After about a minute, she tripped. I told her, “Look where you’re going, not where you’ve been.” This phrase stuck in my head, so after dropping them off at school, I headed back to my studio, sat down at the piano and started writing the song. My friend Sam Harris helped me finish it and I recorded it. The lyrics have been labeled as inspirational by so many people. My manager just completed production of a lyric music video to support the first single off the new album of the same name.
Who would be your dream actor or actress to work with?
Two that come to mind right away are Hugh Jackman and Audra McDonald. They are both so talented and musically inclined. And they sure know how to deliver a lyric. It would be really fulfilling to creatively collaborate with them and see what we could discover together. I love working with actors in finding their intention and then figuring out how to interpret and convey that musically.
What is a normal day in your life?
As a musician, I am on the road quite a bit and I assure you, there is nothing normal about that. But when I am home, a typical day goes like this: I get up and take my girls to school. It’s been one of my most favorite things to do since they were in preschool. I come back home and workout. Not one of my most favorite things to do. Then I have some breakfast and head out to my studio. There is always an hour or two of business to do before I allow myself to get creative. Then the fun begins. I start working on one of the many projects I have going on. Sometimes it’s producing an album, scoring a movie or writing for my new musical. Then I pick up my kids and help them with homework, feed them dinner, get them to bed and then usually go back into the studio and work for a few hours. I also like to go out and hear music and support my friends when they perform.
What is your favorite music? Why?
I have very eclectic taste when it comes to music. I really enjoy all of it and use it to score my mood. Sometimes “classical,” sometimes “good old rock ‘n’ roll,” and everything in between. Music inspires me in the ways that it is created, recorded and performed. I love to listen deeply to every instrument and understand how to put all the pieces together. I have a hard time listening to music casually.
Do you have a role model?
I am a product of my parents and they serve as wonderful role models for me. My father (who passed away in 1997) loved music but was also passionate about business. He taught me how to treat my musical talent with a clear understanding that if I wanted to do it for a living, I had to learn how to negotiate its value. My mother has taught me how to enjoy it all. She is an incredible artist with a passion for life that is infectious. She exudes joy and gratitude for everything and everyone around her. I am so fortunate to have both of these forces as my upbringing.
Any future plans?
I am excited about many projects in the coming months and years. “Braveheart das Musical” is a musical that I co-wrote with Wolfgang Demarco, which is currently being produced in Germany. I am arranging and producing a new multi-artist studio project as well as a follow-up piano solo album of original compositions. I am currently traveling the globe (today in Perth, Australia) as a member of the audition team for Universal Studios Japan. After a brief stop in Los Angeles, I will then be joining Postmodern Jukebox in November as a musical director for some performances during the North American leg of their World Tour.
What actor/actress do you admire the most, and why?
As I mentioned earlier, I have had the honor of musical directing for Angela Lansbury for over 20 years. I admire her work ethic as well as her reputation in the business and she has taught me so much. She loves what she does and says there is no reason to stop. I asked her once why everyone loved her so much. Her response was “I realized early on if I was nice to people, learned their names and gave them common courtesy, they would in turn, be nice to me.”
If you had a time machine, what year would you go back to and why?
I think it would be great fun to go back to 1924 and in particular to the time and place that George Gershwin created “Rhapsody in Blue.” I find it to be one of the most imaginative and powerful pieces of music ever created. It is said that he had five weeks to write it and began composing it on a train from New York to Boston. How wonderful it would have been to watch him find the rhythm and harmonies of his “jazz-concerto.”
How important is Social Media for your business?
I am in love with Social Media. If you want to succeed in the music industry today, Social Media and social networking is one the most important tools. The ability to reach an audience around the world is amazing. Long gone are the days when you made an album, carried them in the back of your car and sold them at concerts and local record stores. Now when you have great content, you market it through social media and sell it on the many music sites available. This assures that you stay relevant, stay connected, stay engaged, stay sharing, stay interactive. Success is sure to follow.
Where can we follow you?
I have a Facebook fanpage with pictures and updated information and there is lots of information at ToddSchroederMusic.com
Quote: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Food: Sushi and Sashimi
Travel destination: Hanalei Bay, Kauai
Movie: The Natural
TV Series: “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” (I’m in denial that it’s over!)
Restaurant: Prosecco Trattoria in Toluca Lake, California
Sports Team: Melbourne Demons (for my wife)
Headshot Photo: Heather Sullivan