Date: June 9, 2005
On June 30, at 8 pm, ten-time Grammy Award winner Bobby McFerrin will take the stage at the Howard Performing Arts Center at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Mich.
Though perhaps most famous for his 1988 hit, "Don't Worry, Be Happy," which won Grammies for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year, McFerrin is a multi-talented conductor and vocal innovator who combines classical, jazz, folk, and world music with his own flavor and improvisations.
Born into a musical family, McFerrin had an early start in music. His father, Robert McFerrin, Sr., was the first African-American male soloist at the Metropolitan Opera.
"My biggest musical influences are probably my parents. My father was a very disciplined singer who worked hard at his craft, and I was around that growing up," says McFerrin in a phone interview. He notes Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, and the group, Weather Report, as other significant influences.
In college, McFerrin majored in composition at California State University in Sacramento.
McFerrin got his start as a pianist, traveling around the country playing in clubs and jazz festivals, but he switched his focus to vocals in the late 70s, beginning his career as a solo vocalist.
Each of McFerrin's performances are unique, and audiences can't expect the same thing twice. They should "expect the unexpected," states McFerrin.
McFerrin himself doesn't know what will happen at each concert, stepping on stage with no prepared materials or set list.
"I try to ignore the audience in the beginning. I want to be influenced as little as possible," McFerrin explains. "I don't want anything to get in the way of me and my singing. I want my mind as clear as possible. Miles Davis turned his back to the audience when he came out on stage, and he offended people. But, he wasn't there to entertain; he was all about the music. I kind of do that. I like a very dark house, just black. I sit there and just think. Once I'm still and quiet inside, I'll begin. It's very personal; it has to be. One song may be Bach, the next blues, a song from TV, or a nursery rhyme or jazz piece."
One of McFerrin's favorite parts of his concert is singing with his "Voicestra," a 12-member improvisational chant group. Again, everything is completely improvised and done on the spot with no prepared musical plan.
Throughout his career McFerrin has had the opportunity to work with and meet many musical greats. One of his greatest memories is sharing a microphone with Tina Turner and Mick Jagger at the 1988 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.
"I looked to my left and I was sharing a microphone with Tina Turner, and I turned right and there was Mick Jagger. I searched the audience for my wife and mouthed 'take a picture.' That was a very special moment."
In the future, McFerrin plans to focus more on his writing: "I want to write a book of poetry, as well as children's stories. I have a lot of albums yet to do. But, if there's any aspect of my career that needs attention, it's writing. I do a lot of performing, but don't get a chance to go to the studio and write good music. I want to write more albums. Right now, I release an album every two to three years, but I would like to release one every year."
Tickets for the concert are $37 for adults, $25 for students, and $32 for Andrews University faculty and staff. For more information or to purchase tickets, call the Howard Performing Arts Center Box Office at 269-471-3560 or 888-467-6442.