By Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta
Steve Sandberg, best known as the musical director, songwriter, and composer for “Dora the Explorer” and “Go, Diego, Go!” plans to come to the Millburn Library Auditorium on Sat., Sept. 17, at 2 p.m. with his exciting classical and world music program, “Alaya.”
The program coincides with Sandberg’s October release “Alaya,” on Teknofoic Recordings, fusing authentic world music with contemporary electronica.
The program “Alaya” will begin with a solo piano recital of Bach, Haydn, Ravel, and Chopin, continuing with the quartet drawing from classical, African, Latin, Balkan, and Indian traditions.
This performance will be the second time that “Alaya” is implemented before a live audience.
“It’s adult music, but it’s very accessible,” said Sandberg. “I don’t just do far-out inaccessible stuff. Everything I do is very melodic. I try to keep it very open and very ‘hooky’ for people. That’s why I was good writing for ‘Dora.’ I like melodies and things everybody can relate to.”
Sandberg began taking an interest in music at the age of four. His parents brought a piano for his younger sister, but she didn’t take to it. “I loved classical music,” he said. “Beethoven was my favorite.”
During Sandberg’s time at Yale, he was into composition and said he really got into electronic music. It was 1973 when he moved back to NYC and the salsa scene was really happening. He started playing in Latin bands.
He said, “My parents were dancing to Tito Puente at the Palladium when I was in the womb.”
Sandberg was able to work as a musician in NYC for many years.
“I kept doing what I loved,” he said. “which was many things; involved in all kinds of world music. I was lucky because people would call me and I got involved in cool projects. I kept doing it and one thing led to another.”
So it was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time when Sandberg got the “Dora the Explorer” gig, a landmark in children’s television worldwide. He is now working on “Dora and Friends,” a sequel to the original series.
Sandberg has toured with David Byrne and Bebel Gilberto as keyboardist, arranger and vocalist. He’s conducted and arranged music for Broadway, and composed and directed for the New York Shakespeare Festival.
Currently he is producing and writing music for Literary Safari’s developmental reading apps for children, and for “Magic on My Fingertips,” an innovative series of animated videos which teach young children how to soothe and uplift their emotions through music and movement.
When it comes to inspiration, Sandberg is into everything.
He said, “I love Brazilian music very much, Milton Nascimento, Traditional world music from Africa. I love Stevie Wonder. I love R&B. I love jazz. All that stuff. I go on You Tube and listen to a lot of master classes from musicians.”
When Sandberg isn’t playing music he loves to ride his bicycle.
“I’m so lucky,” he said. “I live on the upper west side. New York has so many great bike paths.”
He also enjoys different kinds of yoga, seeing movies, and hanging out with his friends.
For more information, visit: https://stevesandbergmusic.com/.