Written by Geralyn Greco Thursday, 18 July 2013 00:00
Frank Sanchez, also known by his friends as “Maestro Sanchez,” has spent over two decades dedicating his life to music and musical theatre. Growing up in Mineola, Sanchez decided early that he wanted to be in show business. When he was 5 years old he had a life changing experience.
“My cousin came up from Florida and took me to see Showboat,” he said. “It was the first time I ever saw a Broadway play and from then on I was hooked.”
Mesmerized by the show, he asked his parents if he could take piano lessons. Sanchez continued his lessons throughout his grade school and high school years.
“I started out practicing classical music, but once my teacher realized that I had a passion for musical theater, by the time I was in high school our lessons were 20 percent classical music and eighty percent musical theater,” said Sanchez.
Retired music director at The Wheatley Middle School in East Williston, Mark Meyers recalls his encounter with Sanchez, then just a 7-year-old-boy. “It was three o’clock and I was getting ready to leave my classroom when I saw this boy standing at my door.”
Even though Sanchez explained that he was waiting for his older sister, Meyers was still perplexed as to why he chose to go to his classroom. He told Meyers,“I want to be like you when I grow up, like a conductor.” Pleased, Meyers handed him a wand and began to teach him the hand movements that a conductor would make.
Sanchez accredits Meyers for turning him on to the world of music composition and conducting. When Sanchez went through middle school and high school, he served as the rehearsal pianist for the school musicals. At age 15, Sanchez studied with legendary composer Steven Sondheim at a two-week composition course in New York City.
It was during this time that he began to go outside the school auditorium and started to appear in local community theatre. He made many appearances on stage including roles in Annie and Hello Dolly at the Herricks Community Center, but his heart was at the piano. While in college at LIU Post, an opening for a pianist at the center came and
Sanchez was the only person the program director John Hayes wanted for the position.
“He’s nothing short of a genius,” Hayes noted. “He’s so helpful and extremely talented.”
Sanchez received his B.F.A. from LIU Post in arts management in 2006. At Post, he became pianist for the musicals and shows held by the theatre department. After graduation the department hired him as the new music director.
He worked on such shows as A New Brain and The World Goes Round. Sanchez notably composed an original musical titled Red Noses.
Michael Chimenti, fellow thespian at the Herricks Community Center, took notice of Sanchez’s musical talent. The two became fast friends and in 2010, Chimenti approached Sanchez on a new project he was working on.
While in the school library at Fordham University in the early ’80s, Chimenti stumbled upon a short story titled “Ickitwick” written by Phyllis Holliday. Chimenti says that at the time he thought it would make a great children’s play and kept it in the back of his mind.
Over 25 years later, he decided to go back and revisit the idea of re-creating the story. With permission from Holliday, Chimenti turned the whimsical story of a boy and his robot into a children’s musical called Johnny and the Thinking Machine.
Chimenti turned to Sanchez to write the music for his play. Just Me and My Machine, and Time for School, are just two of the many songs penned by Sanchez. The show was showcased last summer at the Bay Terrace Jewish Center in Bayside during their one-act play festival.
Sanchez is no stranger to being a multi-tasking artist. He is always working on more than one project at a time. While the beginnings of the first play were starting to take shape, Sanchez was working on writer Dorothy Marcic’s play, Terms of Dismemberment. Sanchez composed the music written by Marcic. Three-time Tony Award Winner Hinton Battle, directed and choreographed the play.
Battle is most notable as the original Scarecrow in the Broadway musical The Wiz. The story of a mother in financial ruin, who decides to sell her daughter’s body parts for money, appeared at the New York City Fringe Festival in August 2010.
Sanchez also has his own theatre company. Along with his business partner Neal Rubinstein, Sanchez created Ah! Broadway. The company’s biggest project comes in the musical version of Han Holzer’s adaptation of Lysistrata.
Rubinstein is a three-time Emmy winner for his work as a producer and editor on NBC’s Nightly News and the Today Show. Sanchez is serving as the musical director and one of the producers (Rubenstein is also a producer) of the show. Rubinstein says that Sanchez “has a wicked sense of humor” and “he blows me away with how he can recite lines from every show.”
The two met through a mutual friend and have high hopes for the show. Rubinstein predicts that the show will make its way to the Broadway stage this time next year.