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Sterling Price-McKinney: Biography

Sterling Price-McKinney started early and never looked back. He was just eleven when a professional evangelist heard him singing and playing gospel music in a Baptist church in his native Texas. The evangelist was so impressed, he took young Price-McKinney on the road with him. Price-McKinney has been on a "road less traveled" ever since.

"The experiences I had early on demystified much of the process for me," Price-McKinney notes. "I saw for myself what moved people, what moved me, and I've tried never to forget the essence of that. More than 'just entertainment,' for me it's always been about how art relates to the human condition. The desire for transformation is inherent in my work. We all tremble on the brink of some kind of enlightenment. Hopefully my work draws people closer to that edge."

It might have been this quest for transformation that inspired Price-McKinney to leave the church, quit school, and run away with the carnival in his teenage years. He learned to accompany silent films on the piano, and on the dusty pipe organs that still existed in a few grand old theaters across the country. Ironically, it was in the company of carnies and roustabouts that he first became aware of the music of people like Scott Joplin, Cole Porter, and even Noel Coward.

"I found myself becoming immersed in the music of the past. Those old songs of past generations seemed far more familiar than the music of my own generation," Price-McKinney observes. "I began playing with jazz trios and the last of the big bands that still existed in Texas high-society clubs of the '70s. Eventually -- as those house bands bit the dust -- I began to play and sing solo in those same clubs. Somewhere during that period I also got my first job in musical theater."

Over the years, Price-McKinney has served as musical director for every kind of show, from established favorites like "South Pacific," "Man of La Mancha," "Ain't Misbehavin'," and "Chicago," to brand-new works in development. (He music-directed, for example, the first productions of "Free to Be You and Me" and "George M. Cohan: In his Own Words.")

The pianist/singer soon added composer, arranger, and playwright to his list of credits (He is a member of ASCAP and the Dramatists Guild.). "At some point, it became about writing my own material, whether it was music, theatrical pieces, or personal treatises on subjects that just interested me ... . And of course, on my way to the future, I remained steadfast with one foot firmly in the music of the past."

Price-McKinney has played for such artists as Carol Channing, Bob Hope, Debbie Reynolds, Kathleen Battle, Barrett Foa, Belle Calaway, Jon Peterson and Lucie Arnaz. He has entertained for such notables as Lee Grant, Rue McClanahan, Erma Bombeck, Greg Louganis, Laurance Rockefeller, Governor Ann Richards, and Lady Bird Johnson -- who has called Price-McKinney her favorite pianist.

His songs are sung in New York clubs by the likes of Eric Comstock and Julie Reyburn. He has designed and directed shows for singers such as Bistro Award- winner Frans Bloem. You never know where Price-McKinney might turn up next. The rock band Black Sabbath wanted him to go on the road with them. You can hear him accompanying Deborah Harry (of Blondie reknown) on the "Love Theme from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre - The Next Generation." Recently he has been collaborating with Paul James and Mark Janas in their retelling of an Edgar Allen Poe legend called "PoeSCrypt." He currently has a cameo role in Jonathan Caouette's acclaimed independent film, "Tarnation."

Of late, Price-McKinney has added teaching and coaching to his job descriptions, sharing his unique perpective with performers ranging from rock 'n' roll musicians to opera singers. He sees no problems in dealing with the sometimes clashing principles of diverse disciplines.

"It's all about communication, whether it's one on one, or for a few thousand," Price-McKinney says. "Performers are always looking for ways to bridge the gap between themselves and their audience. One catalyst I believe in strongly is personal truth presented without apology. My message is "Jump in, the water's fine."