Conductor Michael Renzi has Died, Aged 80

Renzi was a longtime music director of the TV show “Sesame Street,” and passed away in Rhode Island's Newport Hospital following a short illness

4

 

Born in 1941 in Florida, Renzi was a composer, arranger, pianist, and jazz musician. When he was eight, he began studying with Boston-based classical pianist, Julius Chaloff.

He graduated from the Boston Conservatory of Music in 1973 and from the Berklee College of Music a year later. In his 20s, he performed at Allary's, a local jazz club in downtown Providence, Rhode Island. 

He received a special key to the City of Providence by Mayor Buddy Cianci years later and was inducted into both the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame and Heritage Hall of Fame.

In 1976, Renzi moved to New York City, where he appeared on multiple albums. It was during this time that he began serving as musical director of “Sesame Street” — a role he held for many seasons until retirement.

For his work on “Sesame Street” and the soap opera, “All my Children,” Renzi received 16 Emmy Nominations, of which he won seven. In 2019, Renzi was given the Lifetime Achievement Award from The Great American Songbook.

Renzi collaborated, arranged, and composed for jazz and pop vocalists such as Peggy Lee, Mel Tormé, Lena Horne, Jack Jones, Liza Minelli, Maureen McGovern, and many others.

He accompanied Tony Bennett as both an arranger and pianist in the latter’s final world tour and additionally, drew special acclaim for his accompanying performance with Lady Gaga on the CD “Cheek to Cheek.”

Renzi played his final show, accompanying singer Angela Bacari, on September 1, 2021. Nicolas King, Bacari’s grandson, was the last singer Renzi dedicated a partnership to and produced albums with. 

“[To sing with Renzi] was like jumping off a cliff into a net,” said King. “I didn’t have to think about it; I knew I would be caught. It was a sense of total trust. He knew exactly where to phrase with me.”

Renzi is survived by his extended family in both Rhode Island and Florida. 

Our condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.