Music

Cirque du Soleil Trumpeter Keyon Harrold Lives Dream of Playing With Michael Jackson

Mon., Jun. 25, 2012 11:45 AM EDT
by Yvette Caslin

Growing up in St. Louis, Keyon Harrold never imagined he’d one day receive a call to join the circus and that his dream of performing with his idol, Michael Jackson, would come true. Well, the self-taught trumpeter is living out his dream, somewhat.

Since last October, the talented trumpeter-composer-platinum music producer has had the unique pleasure of performing under the direction of the legendary Greg Phillinganes and alongside acclaimed saxophonist Mike Phillips on Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour.

Having toured or recorded with an array of artists and even performing on the “David Letterman Show” with Jay-Z, “The Jay Leno Show,” the “Today” show and the Grammy Awards among others, the CEO of Keykat Productions Inc. says this is one opportunity he absolutely could not miss.

Read what else he has to say. –yvette caslin

How long have you been performing with Cirque du Soleil?
We started last year rehearsing in August. The first show was in October 2011.

What were you doing before?
I was working with Maxwell, playing the trumpet and producing – before that, with Jay-Z.

When did you declare you were an artist?
I started playing the trumpet when I was 6 years old. Professionally, when I was about age 18 or 19; I started working with Common.

Have you have any formal training?
I was self-taught up until age 16. I studied classical trumpeting and played with the St. Louis Symphony when I was in high school.

How did you land this position with Cirque du Soleil?
I was in New York. I wasn’t expecting call at all. The music director, Greg Phillinganes, who played with Michael Jackson, he played keys on the Off the Wall and the Thriller albums. He saw me performing with Maxwell. He gave me a call and asked did I want to join the circus. I told him that “I would love to. This is a chance to pay homage to Michael Jackson, an incredible artist and an icon. He’s the best of all times.

Were you privileged to attend one of Michael Jackson’s concerts?
I wasn’t. I really wish I could have. I never had the opportunity.

What has been your most fascinating experience since you’ve been on tour?
There have been so many, but one thing in particular is seeing this production progress: the music, the acrobats, and the video boards in sync and tell Michael Jackson’s story. The whole production is incredible.

What is your favorite piece to play?
I love to do “Dance Machine.” My boy Mike Phillips and I have a good time on that song. We move, groove and two-step.

What are your fondest memories of Michael Jackson?
His early Motown years, doing the moonwalk, performing “Billie Jean,” and the production of “We are the World,” just seeing his work is why I was inspired to do music

Any last words…
It’s such an honor to be working with Cirque paying homage to Michael Jackson. I have worked with Erykah Badu, Common, Maxwell, Macy Gray, and so many different people – recorded, performed, arranged, produced, all that, but for me it was part of my evolution as an artist, but I didn’t get the chance until he passed away. To me, it’s an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down. It’s a blessing.

Tags: , , ,