Sheldon Forrest started learning piano via the Suzuki Method in Los Angeles in 1971. Over the next 40 years, he performed in Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City and vicinity, Paris, and around the world. Some highlights of his career so far:
(1970s-80s) studied classical piano with Ruth Salaets (Anaheim) and Allen Giles (Long Beach), counterpoint and jazz arranging with Andrew Charlton (Fullerton), harmony and jazz improvisation with Alan Rowe (Santa Ana). Meanwhile he was growing up in a house where his father, Jim Forrest, was the general manager of the Guitar Foundation of America and the editor of Soundboard magazine, was singing in high school vocal ensembles and barbershop quartets, was playing the clarinet and the oboe in school bands, was becoming a huge opera fan, and most importantly, was teaching himself to play standards, showtunes, and pop music–from sheet music, from fake books, and by ear. He was raised listening to big band music and got his first experience playing in a big band jazz ensemble with Doc Rutherford at Orange Coast College in 1989.
San Francisco Bay Area
(lived 1991-1998, returned 2010): from a first cabaret show at The Blue Muse restaurant with drag legends Jose Sarria and Tommi Rose, Sheldon began performing in earnest. First at Finnochio’s (and the Finnochio’s road show at the Rohnert Park Performing Arts Center), then at Chuck Largent’s “Joe Sent Me Club” in Hayes Valley (productions of “The Fantasticks,” “Into the Woods,” and “Guys & Dolls”), then at City College of San Francisco (David Hardiman stage band, Judy Hubbell’s voice classes, The Norman Wong Voice Club, & productions of “Assassins,” “Street Scene,” “Threepenny Opera” and “Falling Through a Hole in the Air’ at the Diego Rivera Theater), then became the house pianist for five years at North Beach landmark Caffe Trieste at their weekly Saturday afternoon variety show. Sheldon had regular piano bar gigs at The Gate, Company, Cafe Venus, appeared often at Martuni’s, Piaf’s, The Swallow, Octavia Lounge, and Zingari’s at the Donatello, performed “A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine” at Masquers’ Playhouse in Point Richmond, directed a choir and taught music appreciation at International Studies Academy on Potrero Hill, accompanied voice classes at Crestmont Conservatory of Music in San Mateo, musical-directed “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and “Aladdin” with Linda’s Musical Theater Group for Kids, appeared at several J.C.C.’s and senior centers with “Cabaret of A Thousand Faces,” performed with Ronnie Lee Twist and the West Coast Future Cats at 142 Throckmorton Theater and Rancho Nicasio restaurant, put together vocal showcases at Savanna Jazz, performed at several dinners for La Chaine des Rotisseurs gastronomic society, premiered the youth version of California history chamber opera “Viva Concha! Rose of the Presidio” at Convent of the Sacred Heart, recorded the CD “Unexpected Broadway” with singer Lua Hadar, and has made appearances at Jazz at Pearl’s, Washington Square Bar and Grill, Enrico’s, Castagnola’s, The Purple Onion, Palace of the Legion of Honor, Cafe du Nord, Orleans Court, the Yerba Buena Performing Arts Center, Storyville, Mason Street Wine Bar, Julie Ring’s Heart and Soul, 50 Mason Social House, Fior d’Italia, Masonic Auditorium, The New Performance Group Studio, Bauhaus Club-Gallery-Restaurant, Ultra Lounge, Herbst Theater, Stern Grove, Grace Cathedral, and Commodore Hornblower Yachts.
New York City and vicinity
(lived 1998-2008 and 2009-10): Sheldon’s first piano bar gig in NYC was at Ecco l’Italia restaurant on the corner of Bleecker St. and Seventh Avenue, with singers Keren Bernbaum and Jan Corey, and first cabaret show was a tribute to Barry Manilow at Danny’s Skylight Room with performer Anderson Lim. From there Sheldon expanded his activities: regular piano bar appearances for 4 years at Danny’s Broadway Piano Bar (at Danny’s Grand Sea Palace), for 6 years at Marie’s Crisis Cafe in the West Village, and for 4 years at La Rivista Ristorante Italiano da Luciano on Restaurant Row. He musical-directed 45 cabaret shows (launching new talent as well as playing with seasoned performers) at venues such as Metropolitan Room, the Laurie Beechman Theater, The Cornelia Street Cafe, Night and Day, Helen’s Hideaway Room, The Duplex, Don’t Tell Mama, Dillons, The Iguana, Encore Showroom, and Mama Rose’s. He was a pianist, coach and assistant musical theater director at American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) and a pianist for vocal production classes, theatrical productions and showcases of the Academy Company at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA). He played five consecutive summers at Bryant Parks’ “Piano in the Park” festival. He did recurring shows with performer “Topaz” at the Elysée Cafe Theatre in SoHo and with singer Rayna Dae at Mezzo Mezzo in Astoria, Queens. He was musical director for the first Manhattan revival of “The Fantasticks” at the Phil Bosakowski 45th Street Theater, “A Chorus Line” at City College of New York (CCNY), “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” & “High School Musical” with West Milford Players in New Jersey, and “Nineteen Secrets” at the Hudson Opera House. He did ensemble work with J.C. Bosco, Unique Duo and Jen Elliott & Bluestruck and volunteer performances with Vocal Ease, Hearts and Voices, and Artists Who Care. He initiated an after-hours salon at Caffe Taci which continued at Caffe Pane e Cioccolato and Papillon Bistro. He has played for the Baronessa Mariuccia Zerilli Marimò at the Columbus Citizens’ Foundation, President Frederick Ballantyne of St. Vincent & the Grenadines at La Rivista, and then-Senator Barack Obama at the Mandarin Oriental. He also appeared at Limelight, Cafe Pierre, Fleur de Sel, the 21 Club, Barnes and Noble “Any Wednesday” cabaret series, at the Astoria Performing Arts Center, at the French Institute/Alliance Française and on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera for seven years as a supernumerary in “La Boheme,” “Tosca,” “Aida,” and “Don Carlo.”
(lived 2008-2009, returned summers 2010, 2011): Sheldon moved to Paris on his 40th birthday and within three days was co-hosting the Jams Vocales on Wednesday nights at Swan Bar on Boulevard du Montparnasse. His association with this bar became both extensive and intense, and he regularly played Soirees du Jazz (jazz concerts), produced Talents Vocaux (showcases for singers), accompanied Apéros Lyriques (classical recitals), special events such as “Bloomsday with Maria d’Arcy” Joyce celebration on June 16, “Reveillon de Jim Haynes” (New Years), “Rentree” (Swan Bar reopening in September) and “Fete de la Musique” as well as leading “‘Round Midnight” after-hours jams every Friday and Saturday night, and bringing San Francisco and New York singers in to make their Parisian debuts. In addition, Sheldon performed at La Beliere Restaurant, Chez Papa Jazz Club, Balajo, Lucernaire, l’Ecluse Bar a Vins Grands Augustins, Le Caveau des Artistes, Le Cercle Suedois, Carr’s Tuileries, La Closerie des Lilas, Autour de Midi, Aux Trois Mailletz, Freedom Pub, Flatteurville, Relais de la Huchette, Aux Petits Joueurs, Le Houdon, Le Quinze, Le Sherwood, Carillon Hotel Bar, Nouvo Cosmos, Au Bon Coin, Le Cave du 38 Riv’, Caveau des Oubliettes, Cafe des Artistes, Cafe Montmartre, Cafe Universel, and Chez Grace. Sheldon had the opportunity of playing for voice lessons at Schola Cantorum, and coaching Leslie Caron for her role as Madame Armfeldt in the Chatelet Theatre’s production of “A Little Night Music.” Sheldon moved back to New York in 2009 and to San Francisco in 2010, but continues to spend summers in Paris performing at Swan Bar and other venues.
Around the World
Sheldon performed at “Dallo Sciamano allo Showman” festival of comic songs and songwriters with the San Francisco-based vocal trio “The Kitchenettes” in 2003 (we were the only American performers that year) in Darfo-Boario Terme, Lombardia, Italy. He also played at Dizzy Jazz & Bar @ Le Méridien Président, Pointe des Almadies, Dakar, Senegal with Rob Armus, Herman Witthoft, and several Senegalese guest artists. Sheldon recently appeared at Villa de St. Exupery and Kookaburra Restaurant in Nice, and on the Hurtigruten cruise ship in Norway. Additionally, he’s made guest appearances at Jean Lafitte Blacksmith House in New Orleans, Louisiana, and at piano bars in Chartres, France, Mexico DF, Maracaibo, Venezuela, and Quito, Ecuador.