When country music superstar Keith Urban rocks the stage at next week’s Fox-TV Network telecast of the “American Country Awards,” one of New Jersey’s most gifted young musicians will rock with him.
Eighteen-year-old Michael Arrom, of Warren, has been chosen by the recording industry’s prestigious GRAMMY Foundation to be part of a highly-talented student band it assembled to perform with Urban. He and six other accomplished student musicians from throughout the nation were selected for the honor. Michael is the sole New Jerseyan.
The invitation to perform on the show, which will air on the Fox-TV Network live from Las Vegas, Monday, Dec. 10, from 8 p.m. – 10 p.m., was a complete surprise to Michael.
“It came out of nowhere,” he said, admitting to being “speechless” when he received the news.
How does Michael feel about appearing on a TV show that last year attracted millions of viewers and to perform this year among the likes of Urban, Lady Antebellum, Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley and Rascal Flatts, along with a virtual “Who’s Who” in country music?
“I’m not as nervous as I should be but a big part of the excitement is not knowing what to expect," he said. "One thing I know for sure: I’m not going to forget this one!”
A high school senior at The Pingry School in Martinsville, Michael expects to provide Urban accompaniment on a massive vintage Hammond organ, a keyboard instrument popular with soul music performers, including Al Green and Booker T. and the M.G.’s.
A serious piano student with love for all kinds of music, Michael started lessons at age six. By age 10, he had taught himself a significant portion of the Billy Joel catalogue.
For the past several years, Michael has been under the tutelage of internationally-acclaimed solo recitalist Michelle Chen Kuo and is mentored by David Rosenthal, musical director and keyboardist for Billy Joel. Rosenthal, who also has worked with Bruce Springsteen, Elton John and Alicia Keys, describes Michael as an “exceptional talent.”
“Michael today wears several music hats: pianist, performer, composer, arranger, interpreter and producer. His taste in music is 'everything and anything,” Rosenthal said. "He’s at home with classical, country, pop, blues, hip-hop and jazz.
Music, for Michael, is the ultimate form of expression, the universal language.
“It gives people a window into who I really am,” he says. “I can say with music what I can’t possibly say in words and writing.”
Michael’s musical accomplishments are many. They include concerts; recitals; performing with Red Bank, NJ’s “Rockit!” rock performance program as the opening act for The Marshall Tucker Band and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes and writing keyboard arrangements for the British band, “Blake.” He and music partner, student Shannon Corsi, perform as the piano-vocal duo, “Cobalt Blue.
For the past three years, Michael has participated in the GRAMMY Foundation’s industry-respected GRAMMY Camp® program. The camps, where teenagers must pass a competitive audition to attend, help young people achieve their musical career goals and provide an opportunity for them to interact with artists and industry professionals.
Michael is the son of Carlos and Paula Whitehorn Arrom of Warren Township.
The students’ performance with Urban is intended to highlight the need to support music-based initiatives that attract young people to music and encourage their musical pursuits. Urban has been an active participant in the efforts of the GRAMMY camps and has encouraged aspiring musicians by giving them the opportunity to perform.