Multi-Tony and Grammy winner Don Sebesky has passed away after an extended struggle with post-stroke Parkinsonism. He was 85.
Mr. Sebesky was a legend in the music arena. Originally a jazz trombonist and keyboardist, he trained at the Manhattan School of Music and played with the jazz and swing legends Kai Winding, Claude Thornhill, Tommy Dorsey, Warren Covington, Maynard Ferguson and Stan Kenton. His work as a sideman to Kenton resulted in three successful albums for Capitol Records in 1959: Viva Kenton!, Standards in Silhouette, and Road Show.
In 1960, Mr. Sebesky opted to devote himself to arranging and conducting. As an arranger, Mr. Sebesky worked closely with Chet Baker, Barbra Streisand, Wes Montgomery, Tony Bennett, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, John Pizzarelli, Michael Buble, George Benson, Liza Minnelli, Kenny Burrell, Hank Crawford, Paul Desmond, Seal, Maynard Ferguson, Astrud Gilberto, Dizzy Gillespie, Jim Hall, Milt Jackson, and Prince.
As a bandleader, he released 13 albums, including 1991's Symphonic Sondheim. On stage, he was a prolific orchestrator, working on the Broadway productions of Peg, Prince of Central Park, Tommy Tune Tonite!, The Boys Choir of Harlem and Friends, Cyrano - The Musical, The Life, Parade, Kiss Me, Kate, Minnelli on Minnelli, Bells Are Ringing, The Boys From Syracuse, Flower Drum Song, The Look of Love, Sweet Charity, Liza's at the Palace, Pal Joey, Come Fly Away, Baby It's You!, Honeymoon in Vegas, and An American in Paris. His original orchestrations for Parade can be heard in the currently running Broadway revival.
When working in the classical arena, Mr. Sebesky collaborated with the London Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the Boston Pops, The New York Philharmonic, the Royal Philharmonic of London, and the Toronto Symphony. As an author, Mr. Sebesky wrote the orchestration text book The Contemporary Arranger.
Mr. Sebesky was nominated for an eye-popping 31 Grammys throughout his career, winning three. For his television work, he received three Emmy nominations, and he was nominated four times for Best Orchestrations at the Tony Awards, winning twice for his work on Kiss Me, Kate and An American in Paris.
In 2017, Mr. Sebesky suffered a stroke, which triggered Parkinsonism, a motor syndrome often conflated with Parkinson's Disease. He is survived by his wife Janina, and his children Olivia, Elizabeth, Ken, Kevin, Ali, and Cymbaline.