Composer, lyricist and teacher Andre Catrini talks with us about his style of writing, finding a community of writers in New York and not being a “cool writer.”
Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
I do. The first song I wrote was a song called “Momma’s Boy” and it was for a “musical” called Danie Richards that I wrote when I was 14. It was absolutely dreadful and I still have the sheet music somewhere.
When was the first time you heard one of your songs sung my someone other than yourself?
The first time I heard one of my songs sung by someone else was when I got to college. I got a group of friends together the first week of school and told them I wanted to be an actor but I also wanted to be a songwriter. I gave them some songs, which I thought were brilliant at the time, they learned them and it was the start of a very fun addiction.
At what point did your desire to be an actor and your desire to be a composer separate and focus solely on composing?
Pretty much my junior year of college. I knew acting wasn’t the route for me. I loved my school and my program and they embraced me as a writer so I didn’t want to leave. And, I really benefited from the acting training and applying it to my writing, but I pretty much knew that when I got back to New York, I would be pursuing writing full time.
How did you get from wanting to be a writer, to where you are today?
The day after my CCM (Cincinnati Conservatory of Music) showcase as an actor, I called Kevin McCollum’s office and said “Hi, I’m a writer, I’d love to meet you.” Kevin was a CCM alum and I went to meet him with a packet of 20 songs, which I have thus learned is far too many to bring in on a first meeting, and I played them for him. He was very nice to me but he said I could benefit from some true musical theatre writing training and he recommended the BMI Lehman Engle Musical Theatre Workshop, which I immediately applied and accepted into as a composer/lyricist. It was terrific and I’m still a member in the advanced workshop. All the while, I kept writing.
You eventually started your own writers group, right?
Yes. A year later, I started a writing group of my own called the Circle Songbook that meets weekly. It’s a group of 10 musical theatre writers and we all help each other grow. I’ve been lucky with them and other people I’ve met here in the city, which is the best networking place you can possibly ask for. People have had faith in me and helped me get along.
Is there someone who you credit with giving you the biggest push in your career so far?
Probably the most was Michael Kerker who runs the musical theatre department at ASCAP. He’s been an advocate of my work and really wonderful in terms of exposure and letting me know when there’s a new opportunity. Through ASCAP, about a year ago, I won the Cole Porter Award for music and lyrics, which was a really special day and a bit of validation in a tough business where there are so many people doing this. I wouldn’t call myself a “cool writer.” I have a deep love and appreciation for diversity of style, but I really love the traditional roots of musical theatre and I think that’s closest to what my sound is like. To be recognized with a name like Cole Porter, who is someone I idolize, it meant I was on the right track.
What’s on your plate now?
A year ago, I was commissioned by Lauren Kennedy down at Theatre Raleigh to write this dance theatre piece called The Wolf, which just had its second production. I’ve been working with the playwright Allan Knee, who wrote Little Women on Broadway and created Finding Neverland with a play of his called The Man Who Was Peter Pan. We’ve been adapting a play of his called The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit which made its debut in December at The WorkShop Theater here in New York and we are currently talking about the next step, doing rewrites and we are looking ahead to a second production.
How else do you hone your craft?
There’s a group called Writer’s Block, created by Andrew Lippa, and I just joined him in hosting it. A group of songwriters get together and are given the opportunity to share a fresh song of theirs with a group of like-minded individuals. It’s really beautiful and lets people say “hey, I exist; I’m doing what you’re doing.” There’s some comfort in that.
How does that feed you creatively?
I think it’s very humbling to see how many people there are in this city with the same or similar aspirations as to what I have. Any day you feel down on yourself or feel like what you’re doing isn’t unique enough, you get in the room with people who you know have those same fears, you hear how different everyone’s sound is, and you’re comforted and supported by the fact that you don’t have to be a certain way. If you stick true to what you believe your art should say, you can’t go wrong.
For more on Andre, head over to www.andrecatrini.com!