|Gary Schreiner in all his glory –credit|
New Yorkers have instant access to all kinds of music. Straphangers often fall victim to a mariachi trio’s impromptu subway concert; lineups monopolize spots like The Beacon Theater, Joe’s Pub, and the Bitter End; legends like Bob Dylan and Lady Gaga have called this town home. Amid the troubadours and A-listers, the heart and soul of NYC’s music industry thrives: the orchestra players, the piano accompanists, the arrangers, the lyricists, the singer-songwriters, and multi-talented pros like accomplished musician Gary Schreiner. Schreiner has experienced success behind the scenes composing as well as performing onstage with the eight-piece band, The Nutopians.
Schreiner’s musical career may have been predestined, as his mother, a professional pianist and composer, first played music for him while he was in the womb. “Before I was born she would sit and play the piano,” Schreiner said recently. “When I was old enough to reach the piano keys, I…would just start playing songs I heard, or make up songs. To me, it just felt natural and satisfying.”
|Producing in the studio|
After growing up in Yonkers, these childhood jam sessions would later lead Schreiner to the Berklee College of Music. “There I learned how to read music, write notes, transcribe, arrange and how best to communicate my ideas to other musicians,” he said. “This has proven invaluable.”
Also invaluable to the musician’s career has been his life in New York. “I love the rhythm of New York City,” he said. “I walk out my door and feel electrified. It’s inspiring to live in a place where there are so many bright, interesting and creative people pursuing their dreams. I know of no other place like it.”
Schreiner had the opportunity to pursue his dreams in the Big Apple –– he’s achieved many musical milestones, including an Emmy Award for his work. “I’ve been very fortunate to have success in different areas of music. I’ve composed the music for many television commercials, films, and songs as well as having performed live with many artists. I am also a producer and studio musician.” Schreiner has also worked with stars like Sting, Rosanne Cash, Carly Simon, Joan Osborne, Elton John, and Yoko Ono.
“I was once hired to spend a day in the studio with [Ono]. I played piano and helped her with a dance piece she was conceptualizing. It was just the two of us at the piano and an engineer on the other side of the glass. It was a fun day; we got along great and together created some interesting music.” In fact, the band The Nutopians got its name from a Lennon-Ono reference.
|The Nutopians –via Gary Schreiner|
“The name Nutopians comes from the conceptual country Nutopia, invented by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1973. It was partially founded to address John’s immigration problems at the time,” Schneider explained. Ono gave the band her blessing in selecting the name.
Created and led by Rex Fowler and Tom Dean, The Nutopians perform acoustic-oriented treatments of John Lennon’s Beatles and solo music. Schreiner’s appreciation of the Beatles is for different reasons than others. He explained that he didn’t listen to their songs because they weren’t his generation. Still, he considers their tunes classics. “I think the Beatles will live forever as an important part of the new American songbook.”
The Nutopians feature some great musicians and inspired arrangements,” Schreiner said. The group plays 6 and 12-string guitar, electric and bass guitars, violin, cello, light percussion, and “the piano, accordion and chromatic harmonica are my musical contributions to the band.”
|Rocking out on the accordion.|
While his mother’s influence may have resulted in his piano talent, Schreiner owes his father for his harmonica skills. “My dad exposed me to his old records of Larry Adler, who was a harmonica star in the ’40s. I played along with all his records, standards, classical, everything. I also played along with Stevie Wonder records and the amazing jazz harmonicist Toots Thielemans. This was my education.”
His education has served him well, given his regular performing with The Nutopians. “It’s been a great experience both musically and personally,” Schreiner said. The band enjoys being together when they’re playing music and when they’re not. It’s musically satisfying, fun, and the audience picks up on the joy that we share together onstage.”