Michael Patrick Walker is an award-winning composer and lyricist who The New York Times hailed as “a skilled songwriter” and The Huffington Post dubbed one of today’s “must-know songwriters”. His songs have been performed and recorded by a diverse group of artists including Chita Rivera, Kelli O’Hara, Cheyenne Jackson, Ana Gasteyer and many more.
Born and raised in the small town of New Freedom, PA, Michael began his music education at the age of 5. Though he studied piano for many years, it wasn’t until the age of 13 when he played a 2-piano version of The Sound of Music at a local high school that he discovered his love of musical theatre. At age 17, he began to attend Carnegie Mellon University where he lead and worked extensively with the student-run theatre troupe, Scotch’n’Soda. It was here that Michael first began to compose for the theatre, contributing material to several original musicals.
Upon his graduation from CMU, Michael moved to New York City and began working as a theatre musician almost immediately. He played on and off Broadway and toured the United States extensively with several musicals as both a musician and conductor. On one of these tours, he first met a musician named Gary Adler with whom he would begin to write Altar Boyz in 2001.
After an initially bumpy development process, the right collaborators were finally assembled (including director Stafford Arima, music director Lynne Shankel, book writer Kevin del Aguila and choreographer Christopher Gattelli), and the show took off! In 2004, it debuted as part of the New York Musical Theatre Fesitval’s (NYMF) inaugural year and, less than six months later, on March 1, 2005, it opened Off Broadway to critical and audience acclaim.
Altar Boyz won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off Broadway Musical and was nominated for an amazing 7 Drama Desk Awards including two nominations for Michael (shared with Gary Adler) for both Outstanding Music and Outstanding Lyrics. The show would go on to run for almost 5 years and over 2,000 performances making it the 9th-longest running Off Broadway musical off all time! Altar Boyz spawned a very successful cast album and the show continues to be performed across the United States and around the world.
Shortly after Altar Boyz opened, Michael began to write for a new Disney Channel television show, “Johnny and the Sprites” starring John Tartaglia. With the musical premise that songs written for children need not be – and should not be – “dumbed down”, the show assembled a team of musical theatre writers to create original songs in very episode. In addition to Michael, Stephen Schwartz, Larry O’Keefe, Bobby Lopez and many more wrote music and lyrics for the show which proved very popular with children and parents alike.
During the 3-year Emmy-nominated run of “Johnny and the Sprites”, Michael became the lead composer, writing nearly 20 songs, as well as serving as musical director, arranger and orchestrator for the show. He also co-produced the show’s “best of” CD with Michael Croiter and Disney Records. “Johnny and the Sprites” continues to run in syndication around the world, dubbed into many different languages.
During this time, Michael never abandoned his theatre roots, as he was also co-creating and writing the score for the original musical, The Distant Bells. A musical about family and the reasons we do and don’t love them, the show was a finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Musical Theatre Festival and received a reading produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company in early 2011 starring Chita Rivera, Ana Gasteyer and Rachel York.
In 2011, Michael partnered with Yellow Sound Label to record his first album featuring only his music and lyrics. Out of Context: The Songs of Michael Patrick Walker is a collection of Michael’s songs from musicals past and future as well as a few from his “trunk” – the way musical theatre writers describe material that is cut from a show in development. The album features performances by a Who’s Who of Broadway talent: Michael Arden, Natalie Venetia Belcon, Peter Friedman, Noah Galvin, Lisa Howard, Cheyenne Jackson, Andy Karl, Telly Leung, Andy Mientus, Anne L. Nathan, Kelli O’Hara, Kerry O’Malley, Jim Stanek, Kate Wetherhead and Rachel York. The release of the album was celebrated with a star-studded concert at Birdland in November 2011 and is available for purchase via Amazon, iTunes, Dress Circle and wherever fine musical theatre albums are sold!
Also in 2011, Michael met and began working with book writer Rick Elice (Jersey Boys, Peter and the Starcatcher). Together they wrote the original musical Dog and Pony which, after a very quick development process, had its world-premiere production at the The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego during the 2013-2014 season. Directed by Roger Rees and starring Nicole Parker, Jon Patrick Walker, Beth Leavel, Heidi Blickenstaff and Eric William Morris, the LA Times said it was “an all-out musical comedy attack”, Variety referred to the “sprightly Michael Patrick Walker songs” (not to be confused with Johnny and the Sprites songs!) and U-T San Diego said the show had “a propulsive score filled with showstoppers”! Plans are in the works for future productions as Dog and Pony continues its journey to the New York City stage!
Michael has several other musicals in development including being theo (book, music and lyrics by Michael) which will have a private reading in June 2015, and 365, a song cycle for five actors including material from Michael’s other shows, trunk songs and new material. Outside the world of theatre, Michael has composed for the world-famous Radio City Rockettes as part of the Christmas Spectacular and his music and lyrics can be heard on the Nick JR television show “Olivia” as well as on several editions of the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS albums Carols For A Cure. Michael currently resides in Manhattan and is a proud graduate of Carnegie Mellon University.