May 30, 2024 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Local Pianist to Debut Fully-Orchestrated Elton John Tribute

Acclaimed pianist Michael Sobie brings his vision and sound to life with the premiere of ROCKET MAN: A Live Orchestral Experience, debuting May 17th in Santa Monica. 

An avid fan of Sir Elton John, Michael has been following the legend’s storied career for over 30 years. Primarily studying classical piano as a child, Michael would read Elton John sheet music to learn the songs after he finished his lesson practice. In fact, he attributes much of his playing style, ability to read chords, excellent sight reading, and love of a good secondary dominant to the Elton library. 

Having spent over a decade dreaming of creating a show of this magnitude, he finally found the perfect time to pour his talent and undeniable skillset into a concert that is years in the making. 

Developing ROCKET MAN began in 2016. Since then, Michael has performed a 75-minute version of the show in various iterations, including solo at the piano and with an 11-piece rock band. However, he still had the urge to do something bigger. 

Writing this show for an orchestra was neither quick nor easy, but a challenge Michael looked forward to tackling and perfecting. Without the original recordings’ guitars and synths, it was important for Michael to capture the supportive essence of the Elton John band while using more acoustic instruments. To do this, he took on the biggest element of all: updating the classic songs with his own arrangements and orchestrations.  Though he will be assuming the role of the titular Rocket Man that evening, Michael actually prefers to share the spotlight. Joining him onstage will be some of LA’s finest musicians who have collectively recorded and performed with the likes of Hans Zimmer, Stevie Nicks, Barbra Streisand, and, of course, Elton John himself. 

Considering the vast catalogue of the rock icon, choosing which songs to include proved overwhelming, so Michael enlisted the help of a very special creative team: his husband’s family. At a reunion, they voted on which songs they wanted Michael to include on the program. Once he added a few of his favorite deeper cuts, the 21-song set list was born and the excitement was in full swing. 

Born and raised in the Midwest, Michael began playing almost immediately after his grandparents gifted him a piano on Christmas Day in 1987. Years of dedication and practice led him on an incredible professional journey that began by touring with Broadway musicals such as Elton John and Tim Rice’s AidaWicked, and Les Miserables. Eventually, he landed in Los Angeles in 2013 where he currently resides. 

Michael has since gone on to perform worldwide with HBO’s Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience – based on the massively popular television series – alongside the show’s composer, Ramin Djawadi, as keyboardist and assistant conductor for a number of years. In 2019, Djawadi handed Michael the baton to conduct their fourth international tour.  

Additionally, Michael has recorded and conducted soundtracks for television and film. His experience showcases countless performances that live in a wide array of musical settings. Ultimately, Michael reached a point where he wanted to branch out with his own creative passion. 

Check out ROCKET MAN: A Live Orchestral Experience one night only, May 17, 8:00pm, at St. Monica Catholic Church in Santa Monica. Tickets can be found at rocketmanorchestra.com.

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