In It Together: The Music Team Behind the Color Purple


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July 23, 2018 –

When you move from writing pop songs to writing a theatrical musical, what do you need to know? How are theater songs different from pop songs? What are the best ways to get from a novel, to a film, to the stage? How do you achieve the art of collaboration? There will be answers to these questions, video clips, plus a “live” performance by some special guests.

Composer and Lyricist
Composer and Lyricist
Music Director

Director of Musical Theatre, ASCAP

Stephen Bray

​Stephen Bray is a songwriter, composer, drummer and record producer, who has won Gold, Platinum, and Diamond awards and contributed to the sales of more than 38 million records by RIAA awards alone and world sales at more than 100 million. He has collaborated with many artists, including Gladys Knight, The Jets, Regina Richards, Debra Harry, Kylie Minogue, Paul Jackson, Jr., Siedah Garrett, Paulinho Da Costa, Jellybean and Madonna.

After being signed to Sire Records, Stephen collaborated with Madonna on some of the biggest songs of the 1980s, including “Into the Groove,” “Express Yourself,” “Papa Don’t Preach,” and “Like A Prayer.”

Stephen’s film credits include Beverly Hills Cop, Desperately Seeking Susan, Who’s That Girl (also as score composer), Earth Girls Are Easy and Peeples. He has created works for Sire, Warner Bros, MCA, Atlantic, Epic, Sony, Geffen, EMI America and Hollywood Records, among others.

In 2005, Stephen’s debut as composer/lyricist of The Color Purple earned him and his collaborators 11 Tony Award® nominations for the show, and in 2017 they won the Grammy Award® for Best Musical Theater Album for the Tony Award®-winning revival of The Color Purple.

Allee Willis

Allee Willis is a one-woman creative think-tank and multi-disciplinary artist. Inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame in 2018, she’s a Grammy®, Emmy®, Tony® and Webby award-winning and nominated songwriter, performer, artist, multimediaist, director, collector, and party thrower.

Willis’s songs have sold more than 60,000,000 records, including Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” and “Boogie Wonderland,” The Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance,” The Rembrandts’ “I’ll Be There For You (theme from Friends),” Pet Shop Boys with Dusty Springfield’s “What Have I Done to Deserve This?,” Patti LaBelle’s “Stir It Up,” Maxine Nightingale’s “Lead Me On,” Joe Esposito’s “You’re The Best (from The Karate Kid),” and the Tony® and Grammy®-winning Broadway musical, The Color Purple. Willis won a Grammy® for Best Soundtrack for Beverly Hills Cop and was nominated for an Emmy® for “I’ll Be There for You (theme from Friends)”.

Willis recently completed a massive project for her hometown, Detroit, recording and producing a song she wrote for the city, “The D”, with 5000 lead singers and musicians, more people in history than have ever been on a record before. It was accompanied by a micro-documentary, which Willis also directed, produced, edited, and animated. In 1997, Willis was the first artist to address the U.S. House of Representatives on artists’ rights in cyberspace.

Jason Michael Webb

Jason Michael Webb is a writer, musical director, arranger, orchestrator, lecturer, and lover of music. From conducting orchestras in Broadway pits to writing and arranging music for a presidential inauguration, Jason has dedicated his life to using music to heal, uplift, and encourage.

Webb’s early musical training consisted of formal classical study, playing in small churches, and listening to pop music. By age 21, he had a degree in classical piano, played in the biggest churches in New York City, and made his orchestral solo debut with the Queens Symphony Orchestra.

He then went on to become Musical Director of the six-time Grammy Award®-winning Brooklyn Tabernacle, for whom Mr. Webb co-wrote and produced four albums for The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, leading to two Stellar Award nominations and a Dove Award win. His arrangement of BTC’s “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was featured at the 2013 inauguration of President Barack Obama and simultaneously heard by more than one billion people worldwide.

Webb also recently served as Musical Director of the gorgeous Tony®- and Grammy®-winning 2016 Broadway Revival of The Color Purple, directed by John Doyle and based on the timeless novel by Alice Walker. Mr. Webb is now currently the U.S. Music Supervisor of the tour, as well as Music Director/Arranger for Cynthia Erivo, who won a 2016 Tony Award® as Celie in the Broadway Revival.

Other credits include Associate Production Music Supervisor for The Greatest Showman (20th Century Fox); Musical Director/Vocal Arranger for the upcoming Broadway production of the a cappella play, Choir Boy, written by Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight); and Associate Musical Director of Broadway shows including Berry Gordy’s Motown: The Musical, Alan Menken, Glen Slater, and Janus Cercone’s’s Leap of Faith and Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley’s Violet.

Michael A. Kerker

MODERATOR Michael A. Kerker has been Director of Musical Theatre for ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) since 1990. In addition to coordinating ASCAP’s Musical Theatre Workshop in New York, he works with Universal Theatrical Group to produce the ASCAP/ Universal Theatrical Group Theatre Workshop in Los Angeles, (both of which are led by composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz). Together with Michael Feinstein, he produces a regular series of concerts at Carnegie Hall highlighting the catalogue of both legendary and contemporary songwriters.

Michael has also produced a regular series of interview programs entitled “Broadway: Up Close and Personal” for the Kennedy Center. His onstage conversations with some of our nation’s most prominent songwriters have included evenings with Jerry Herman, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Charles Strouse, Sheldon Harnick, Marvin Hamlisch, and Stephen Schwartz.

Michael produced the ASCAP Foundation Jerry Herman Legacy Program, which is a series of seminars, master classes and concerts featuring the legendary composer/lyricist. The program has been presented nationwide in such cities as Chicago, Sundance, San Francisco, Phoenix, Savannah, Miami, and Pittsburgh.

Michael is proud to be a member of the Boards of the Actors Fund and the Johnny Mercer Foundation.