Indianapolis, 1964… while appearing at the Embers in Indianapolis, Indiana, a young drummer, Michael Berkowitz, approached Krupa. Brought to the club to hear his idol, Berkowitz was mesmerized by the Krupa magic on the drumset. After the show, Krupa was kind enough to spend a few minutes with the aspiring young drummer, and it was at that moment that Michael Berkowitz knew he was going to be a professional drummer.
Michael Berkowitz brings his professional experience and personal charisma to concert stages in what reviewers call “a model of high quality conducting technique.” They’ve also written that “Berkowitz provided the sparkle of the evening with his witty banter and self-assured conducting”.
Johnny Green, the great composer-conductor, called Michael Berkowitz a “Drummer Conductor Extraordinaire”. He has performed as a drummer for Henry Mancini, Liza Minnelli, Michael Crawford, Billy Joel, Sting, Elton John, and Bette Midler; conducted for Marvin Hamlisch, Roberta Flack, Maureen McGovern, Michael Feinstein, and Sarah Brightman: lead numerous Orchestras including the Boston Pops, The London Symphony, The Cincinnati Pops, The Pittsburgh Symphony, The North Carolina Symphony, The Atlanta Symphony, The National Symphony; and is featured on recordings with Steve Lawrence, Placido Domingo, Linda Eder and countless Original Cast Albums, Movies, Jingles and Television Performances.
Michael Berkowitz began performing as a drummer at the age of 11 in his hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana. After studying music at Indiana University, he began touring with Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, and Henry Mancini. Mancini persuaded him to move to Los Angeles, where he became one of the city’s busiest studio musicians, working with stars such as Gloria Estefan, Linda Ronstadt, Ringo Starr, Helen Reddy, Seals and Crofts, and The Association.
Michael has performed on many television programs including The Academy Awards, The Tonight Show, The Tony Awards, The Today Show, A Capitol Fourth, Great Performances, Live From Lincoln Center and Concerts at the White House.
His close work with two of Hollywood’s greatest talents, Johnny Green and Nelson Riddle, led Michael to consider conducting. Johnny Green, composer of “Body and Soul” and conductor of the world-famous MGM Studio Orchestra, was a great inspiration, and passed along much of his experience and knowledge to Michael. Nelson Riddle firmly pointed Michael toward conducting. During their close 15-year friendship and working relationship, the two collaborated on television projects, feature films, recordings, and live shows. Through Riddle, Michael learned the fine points of the music business. When Riddle was too ill to conduct for Dame Kiri TeKanawa on his last recording project, it was Michael that Riddle asked to step in and conduct.
After moving to New York in 1980, Michael was immediately in demand on Broadway, working shows such as Evita, Pacific Overtures, The Tap Dance Kid, Do Re Mi and Jerome Robbins’ Broadway. On record he has been heard from New York’s Carnegie Hall on such projects as “A Sondheim Tribute”, “My Favorite Broadway”, “Anyone Can Whistle” and “An Evening With Betty Buckley”.
He was the drummer for the once in a lifetime performance of Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies” with the New York Philharmonic. Jerome Robbins asked Michael to come to the New York City Ballet to play for Robbins’ “West Side Story Suite”, which has been performed before sold- out houses in New York and all over Japan.
In July of 2007, Liza Minnelli called Michael to be her Music Director. Appearances with Ms. Minnelli in the past 12 months have included Concerts in the UK, Spain, Russia, Germany, Italy and all across the United States. Michael conducted the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra Opening Night 2008 for Liza’s induction into the Hollywood Bowl’s Hall of Fame. Upcoming tours include a series of concerts in Italy at the great Opera Houses of Rome, Milan, Florence, Bari, Malta and others.
Pops conducting appearances with the Naples, Virginia, Oregon, Tacoma, New Mexico, Carolina Pops, Santa Rosa, Lexington, Hartford and Paducah Symphony Orchestra have kept Michael busy as well.