Michael Berkowitz

Pops Conductor Emeritus

Michael Berkowitz has been a working musician since he was 15 years old. His parents used to drive him to performances of Footlight Musicals in his hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana, where he was a member of the Pit Orchestra, made up of the best of the local professional musicians.

At Indiana University, he played with the Philharmonic Orchestra as well as the IU Jazz Band. And, when he wasn’t running to Indianapolis to play at the Embers Night Club or the Jim Gerard Show, he was on tour with an Orchestra of IU musicians and faculty, backing up Henry Mancini, Johnny Mathis, Petula Clark and Andy Williams. It was Mancini who suggested that Berkowitz move to Los Angeles.

Arriving in Los Angeles, Berkowitz met singer Helen Reddy, with whom he toured, recorded and appeared with on many television programs for three years. It was through Helen Reddy’s NBC TV Show that he met Nelson Riddle, who Michael worked with from 1973 until Nelson’s final concert in September of 1985.

While in Los Angeles, Berkowitz did recordings, live performances and was the drummer at the Los Angeles Music Center’s Civic Light Opera from many years, which often took him to San Francisco for performances at the Curran and Orpheum Theaters. He also worked with Rock Legends such as Seals and Croft, The Association, The Doors and stars such as Mary Tyler Moore, Ringo Starr, Mac Davis, Chuck Berry and many more.

Moving to New York City, Berkowitz immediately began a 15-year stint on Broadway, working with Jerome Robbins, Michael Kidd, Harold Prince, Marvin Hamlisch, and other theatrical geniuses. His association with Musical Directors Paul Gemignani and Larry Blank led to many concerts at Carnegie Hall, The NY Philharmonic, PBS’ Great Performances, The Tony Awards, and other prestigious venues.

Working with EGOT Winner Marvin Hamlisch for 15 years as his Musical Director, Berkowitz conducted Orchestras all over the United States and Europe. From The London Symphony to The Oscars, Michael and Marvin worked side by side to great success.

As a result of his association with Hamlisch, Berkowitz became in demand for Symphony Pops concerts with Orchestras across the country. Principal Pops Conductor positions in Greensboro, NC and Paducah, KY. preceded his 15-year tenure with the Santa Rosa Symphony Pops in California.

Liza Minnelli also called Berkowitz in 2007 to become her Musical Director, which led to a whirlwind of concerts from The Hollywood Bowl to The Palace Theater in New York, for her Tony Award winning show, “Liza’s at The Palace.”  He worked with Minnelli at the San Remo Festival in Italy, The Sydney Opera House and the Teatro Antico in Taormina, Sicily.

In 2023, Berkowitz retired from the Santa Rosa Symphony Pops where he was recently named Pops Conductor Emeritus by the Board of Directors.

Still taking the occasional concert as either Conductor or Drummer, Berkowitz continues to work on his music library and trying to play like Buddy Rich on the drums.