April 12, 2016 at 11:15am
Dane Lisser

Musical Theatre Connection

Andy Grobengieser '91 has had a wide variety of experiences in the music industry since graduating from Millikin University. The New York City-based music director and creative professional has engaged in music supervision, music directing, conducting, music transcription, music copying, arranging, orchestration and music technology.

Grobengieser is currently working as assistant conductor/keyboards for Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken on his new Broadway production of "Aladdin." Alan Menken also wrote "Little Shop of Horrors," the latest production of the Millikin Theatre & Dance 2015-16 performance season.

Grobengieser recently visited Millikin's campus, April 6-8, to conduct master classes for MU students and spoke with the cast of "Little Shop of Horrors" on the musical ins and outs of Alan Menken's work. Grobengieser's visit was made possible by a grant from the Amherst F. Hardy Foundation.

Andy Grobengieser

"Andy Grobengieser's visit offered our students a rare and valuable opportunity to work with a highly respected and sought after member of the Broadway community," said Sean Morrissey, interim chair of Millikin's Department of Theatre & Dance. "Even more special is the fact that he is a Millikin graduate who knows first-hand."

Grobengieser previously worked as assistant conductor/keyboards for Disney's "The Little Mermaid," associate conductor/keyboards for "Ghost the Musical," and associate conductor/keyboards for Elton John's "Lestat." He has toured with a number of major national tours, including Disney's "The Lion King" (associate conductor/keyboards), "Shrek the Musical" (musical director/conductor) and most recently, "Peter and the Starcatcher" (musical director/piano).

"Working with the students brought me back to that time in my personal growth and how great it was to have people from the professional world visit," said Grobengieser. "Being able to offer real world auditioning to the students is very valuable to them and it was certainly valuable for me every time I had an opportunity."

Andy Grobengieser

Since 2001, Grobengieser has been an arranger and transcriber for Hal Leonard Corp., the world's largest publisher and distributor of printed and digital sheet music. His arrangements appear in hundreds of best-selling pop, rock, country and R&B sheet music folios and songbooks.

"I feel that the students, especially with the current facilities, are getting a leg up on everything that they want to do professionally," said Grobengieser. "The students are getting amazing training in their craft because I was very impressed with their singing and the material choices, and they have a great faculty leading them."

It was refreshing to get an inside look into the thoughts of those who are casting and working on Broadway shows today.

After graduating from Millikin in 1991, Grobengieser completed a master's degree in music theory in 1993 at The University of Texas – Austin, where he also completed subsequent doctorate work. He spent three years on the adjunct music theory faculty at Pace University in Manhattan, N.Y., and has served as a contributor to several academic textbooks.

Musical theatre major Anna Brockman said, "It was really beneficial to hear and work with someone who is not only very successful in theatre, but also a Millikin alum. After listening to his stories and successes, I am reminded of how lucky we are to have such wonderful connections and opportunities."

Andy Grobengieser

Brockman, a junior from Saint Joseph, Mo., said it was a rewarding experience to get an insider's look from a member of the musical theatre industry. 

"We often hear from others who are auditioning and not from those on the other side of the table," said Brockman. "It was refreshing to get an inside look into the thoughts of those who are casting and working on Broadway shows today."

Grobengieser has held clinics and workshops in the past but says his visit to Millikin was special because it's his alma mater.

Andy Grobengieser

"Consistent and friendly networking is important in this industry," said Grobengieser. "It's important to know your value and know how good you are, but also remain humble. It was great to impart a few words of wisdom to students and it was great to be back on campus."