After graduating from Pingry, keyboardist Michael Arrom ’13 will take a gap year for an extraordinary reason: touring with internationally-acclaimed rock guitar virtuoso Steve Vai. Considered one of New Jersey’s most gifted young musicians, Michael will be part of a four-person world-class band backing Mr. Vai. Scheduled stops on the tour include Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and Thailand.
A three-time GRAMMY Award winner, Mr. Vai is an electric guitar legend who has recorded and toured with the Frank Zappa band, David Lee Roth, Public Image, Ltd., Alcatrazz, and Whitesnake. He began a solo career more than 25 years ago and has sold more than 15 million albums, his latest being The Story of Light.
Michael’s opportunity surfaced through a recommendation and strong support from his close mentor David Rosenthal, well-known as Billy Joel's musical director and keyboardist. What sealed the deal was Michael’s grueling preparation of one of Mr. Vai’s songs that many people consider “unplayable” because the piece requires a fast tempo, complicated finger techniques, and sudden leaps between octaves. At the end of the audition conducted via Skype (“I played with everything I had, nearly holding my breath through the piece,” Michael said), Mr. Vai was satisfied. A few days later, his manager offered Michael the job!
In 2012, Michael first gained national attention as keyboardist for country music star and American Idol judge Keith Urban. The recording industry’s prestigious GRAMMY Foundation® selected Michael for the incredible opportunity to perform live with Mr. Urban on FOX-TV’s broadcast of the American Country Awards last December.
Michael has frequently performed throughout New Jersey at concerts, recitals, charity events, and Red Bank’s “Rockit!” rock performance program. A pianist since age seven, he also plays the saxophone, synthesizers, and organ. In addition, he is a vocalist, composer, arranger, and producer. A versatile musician, he is at home with classic rock, country, classical music, jazz, pop, blues, and hip-hop. He has studied classical music under the tutelage of concert pianist Michelle Chen Kuo of Hanover Township, New Jersey.
Reflecting on the upcoming tour, Michael noted that, “I had always dreamed of doing something like this someday, but I always imagined that ‘someday’ would come after I graduated from college. Being only 18 makes this an incredibly humbling experience. I have so much respect for Steve and his band, and seeing my name in print next to some of the greatest musicians in the world just inspires me to work even harder to earn their respect.”
Upon the tour’s completion, Michael will attend the University of Southern California—his “dream school”—where he will study popular music in its esteemed Thornton School of Music.