Photo Credit: Unknown
Richard Skipper Celebrates…
Steven Ray Watkins
Steven Ray Watkins has been playing the piano for 47 years, and has been a working musician for 43 years. He attended Shenandoah Conservatory of Music with a focus on Musical Theater and Piano. In the 80’s, Watkins was the lead singer of the techno-pop band Ampersand, who had a top 20 Billboard single with the song “Traction.” After their disbandment, Watkins returned to musical theater performance, performing in the national tours of “big,” “Singin’ In the Rain,” and “Showboat.” Regionally he performed in “Falsettos,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “42nd Street,” “Evita,” “They’re Playing Our Song,” “The Last Session,” and “Witness For the Prosecution,” among others. In 2000, Watkins turned his attention back to music, and quickly became one of the most sought after musical directors and pianists in NYC. As a theater MD, he has worked on “A Chorus Line,” “Funny Girl,” “The Last Five Years,” “Once On This Island,” etc. As a musical consultant and vocal coach he has worked with a myriad of different performers, including Patti LuPone, Hugh Jackman, Beyonce, Anne Hathaway, Cynthia Nixon, Bonnie Franklin, Amanda McBroom, Louise Pitre, and Karen Mason. He consulted on the 2009 Oscars, has musical directed the MAC Awards 3 times, and has been involved in many benefits and concerts in NYC and around the country, including performances at Town Hall and Carnegie Hall. As a composer, he has written specialty material for many cabaret acts, the MAC Awards, and his song “Give Me A Voice” appears on Lennie Watts’ CD “I Want….You Want.” Currently, Watkins teaches a cabaret performance class at Marymount College of Manhattan plus many private classes, all with Lennie Watts. (Source: Natasha Castillo, Spotlight On You)
What has been your most memorable experience in this business?
Probably working on the Oscars in 2009 with Hugh Jackman, Beyonce, and Baz Luhrman. Fascinating to watch that process.
Which is the most memorable experience you’ve had in your acting career?
Playing the lead in “The Last Session.” It was one of the few shows I’ve ever done that encompassed everything I do, playing, singing, acting. It was very satisfying.
Is there a song or movie, that really helps motivates You and/or transports you?
“Now, Voyager” is my favorite movie and I can watch it over and over. Musically, any dance music gets me going.
What is the greatest piece of advice you have ever received and from whom?
“When this starts to feel like work, stop doing it. You do this because you love it!” I actually don’t remember who said it but it stuck with me.
Have you had any funny or memorable moments on stage?
Oh so many. My favorite was being onstage with my best friend when he was going on as an understudy. In rehearsals, he kept mispronouncing the word”countrified” as “country fried” so in the actual performance he panicked and said the first syllable of the word and just stopped to collect himself for a second. In effect he had just screamed a curse word without realizing it, and the audience lost their minds
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love my work so much that my down time is literally that, I just read or listen to music it catch up on movies and TV
When did you realize you had a gift for musical direction and what were your early influences?
I started musical directing right after college and I just really liked the creative process of putting it all together. My early influences were Carly Simon, Carole King, Billy Joel, Elton John, and Kate Bush.
What is the most challenging thing you have had to deal with as an artist?
Mostly it’s when people don’t trust that I know what I’m doing and second guess me because of their own nerves.
What do you do to keep fit?
Ha ha, just walking around the city mostly.
Are there entertainers that you have performed with that were particularly memorable to work with?
Patti LuPone, just a fascinating person to be around. And seriously, pretty much anyone that you’ve seen me work with more than once, Lennie Watts, Amy Wolk, Karen Mason, the list goes on and on.