Vocalist and Conductor
Drawing on all genres, demonstrating matchless improvisational skills and an ability to create new vocabularies on the fly, Bobby McFerrin has never been a conventional artist and possesses enormous diversity and range. Inclusiveness, play, and voices raised together in song define his art. Bobby's parents were both singers, and he was exposed to a multitude of musical genres during his youth, including classical, R&B, jazz, pop, and world music. Bobby began his career as a professional pianist in jazz and cabaret bands, but realized at age twenty-seven that his true calling was singing. Since then, he has singlehandedly redefined the role of the human voice with his sheer virtuosity, and through his a cappella hit “Don't Worry, Be Happy,” his collaborations with Yo-Yo Ma, Chick Corea, and the Vienna Philharmonic, his creation of the improvising choir Voicestra, and his unprecedented solo vocal performances.
San Francisco Symphony audiences first encountered Bobby McFerrin in 1990, when he conducted the Orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. He had already appeared the previous year with the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, narrating Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, and since those performances he has appeared in Davies Symphony Hall many times.
Mr. McFerrin has made numerous television appearances, from Sesame Street to 60 Minutes to NBC’s The Sing Off. Bravo's documentary about Mr. McFerrin, Beyond Words, was released in 2003 and is available on DVD. A video of his appearance at the World Science Festival, which showcases his use of audience participation, became a viral Internet phenomenon, viewed by more than five million people. Most recently, Bobby was featured on an episode of HBO's Masterclass, coaching four talented young singers, and encouraging them in improvisation.
Bobby McFerrin has received ten Grammy awards. His recordings include his eponymous debut album (1982), The Voice (1984), Spontaneous Inventions (1985), and Simple Pleasures (1988), which contained the smash hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” His other groundbreaking recordings include Medicine Music (1990); a series of collaborative albums, including the international best-selling Hush with Yo-Yo Ma (1991), Play with Chick Corea (1992), The Mozart Sessions with Mr. Corea and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (1996), and Paper Music (1995) with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; Circlesongs (1997); Beyond Words (2002); and the choral album VOCAbuLarieS (2010) featuring Roger Treece, Lisa Fischer, and more than fifty other singers. With his new album, spirityouall, to be released next month from Sony Masterworks, Mr. McFerrin throws some unexpected new ingredients into the melting pot and reinvents Americana. He returns to the great folk tradition of singing together through life's trials and triumphs and brings it all back home, speaking directly, singing simple words, and turning his vivid imagination loose on beloved old songs.