Pianist Philip Fortenberry Will Perform A Benefit Concert At WCU's Homecoming Celebration

Pianist Philip Fortenberry Will Perform A Benefit Concert At WCU's Homecoming Celebration

Renowned pianist, composer and Columbia, Miss. native Philip Fortenberry will bring his masterful piano playing, exciting storytelling, beautiful music and southern charm home to Mississippi for a solo benefit concert, "Coming Home, One Night Only" at his alma mater, William Carey University, during the Homecoming celebration in the 1,200-seat Thomas Fine Arts Center Auditorium, 710 William Carey Parkway in Hattiesburg, Miss. on Friday, March 22, at 7:30 p.m. Proceeds from the concert with benefit WCU's Winters School of Music and Ministry Studies' new Strings Program and help support the Steinway Program.

The audience can expect to hear Fortenberry with his "flying fingers" in this intimate cabaret-style 90-minute concert, share stories from his life while playing many wonderful Broadway show tunes from his career in the theater, a number of classical selections and sacred music from a lifetime of serving as a church musician.

"Coming Home, One Night Only" is presented and produced by PK Music with writing and direction by music director and composer Keith Thompson who is co-producer with Fortenberry as a powerhouse musical team and co-composer of "Idaho! The Comedy-Musical" and musical director of "Jersey Boys."

Tickets are now on sale to the public for $15 general admission and may be purchased online at www.wmcarey.edu via the Homecoming Registration page or call the WCU Music Office at 601-318-6175 or email Tanya Hobbie at thobbie@wmcarey.edu. Tickets are $10 for WCU Alumni attending the 5:30 p.m. Alumni Awards Dinner, buy via email alumni@wmcarey.edu or call Alumni Director Pam Shearer at 601-318-6561. WCU students will receive free admission to the concert with photo I.D.

"William Carey takes great pride in its outstanding graduates, and Philip Fortenberry certainly fits that classification," says President Dr. Tommy King. "His accomplishments as a pianist and musical director are remarkable, and we are so glad to claim him as one of our best," he added.

"Throughout my life and career, it's important to me to continue to study music, develop my craft, improve my artistry, challenge myself to be the best that I can be, not just as a pianist, but as an educated, active citizen of my community," says Fortenberry. "Although I was naturally gifted as a four-year-old when I first began playing the piano at home, it is my formal instruction that gave me the structure I needed to support the development of that gift. My education has sustained me, and it continues to prove its value every day of my life. I'm humbled to be invited to come home to share my music, and it gives me great pride to be among the distinguished roster of artists who share the rich legacy that is William Carey University," added Fortenberry.

Fortenberry began playing piano at home at age four, became the accompanist for his church at age seven and performed his first solo concert at age 12 while continuing his work as a church pianist. After completing his undergraduate degree in 1980 at William Carey University, he left the south and moved to New York City.

He continued his studies and holds a Master of Music Degree in classical piano performance from New Jersey City University, was an adjunct faculty member in the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University and continued his private piano studies at The Julliard School.

"As a pianist in New York City for many years and Las Vegas since 2004, I've been playing the music of Broadway and musical theatre for much of my life," says Fortenberry. "The music in my concerts is reflective of my career, and because I have played many of the shows represented, this music is very personal to me. Indeed, I was the original pianist for several Broadway shows and the first musician to play some of this music."

Fortenberry was the hand/body double for actor Michael Douglas in HBO's biopic "Behind the Candelabra," and has performed on numerous concert stages from Lincoln Center to Carnegie Hall, from The Kennedy Center to The White House, featured as a headliner to rave reviews. He has composed and released eight solo CDs.

He is a partner in two entertainment companies, PK Music and PK Entertainment based in Las Vegas, NV. In August 2018, Fortenberry successfully completed a three-week solo concert tour of China debuting his "Salute To Broadway" concert to thousands of Chinese citizens in 14 cities showcasing his prestigious career performing in 10 Broadway shows and eight national tours including "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Cats," "Ragtime" and "The Lion King."

He is the co-producer and pianist of the critically-acclaimed musical revue, "The Cocktail Cabaret" that debuted in 2017 at the iconic Cleopatra's Barge at Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip. Fortenberry serves on the board of "The Composers Showcase," a Nevada nonprofit that gives opportunities for composers to present original music to an enthusiastic and supportive audience at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts. He is the music coordinator for the Broadway Series at The Smith Center and the organist for Community Lutheran Church in Las Vegas.

Fortenberry's distinguished career includes being one of the most sought-after pianists on the Great White Way and the recipient of the coveted "Ghostlight Award" as "Best Musician on Broadway." Entertainment journalist John Katsilometes from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nevada's largest daily newspaper, declares Fortenberry as "a fantastic man at the piano, one of our great treasures!"

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