Michael Omartian: One of the Unsung Giants of Music – Rick Beato — “These interviews should be in the Library of Congress” — great info on true session musicianship

‘Jazz players’ brains are wired differently.’

‘Just do some [drum] fills.’ — 37:30

“It’s the limitations that make the artist, not the capabilities.” — 43:30 in




Michael Omartian is an influential American producer, composer, arranger, and musician whose work spans several decades and encompasses a wide range of music genres. Born on November 26, 1945, Omartian has made significant contributions to the music industry, particularly in the realms of pop, rock, and contemporary Christian music.

### Early Career

Omartian’s career in music began in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a session musician, where he played keyboards for various artists. His adept skills quickly made him a sought-after musician in the recording studio circuit.

### As a Producer and Arranger

Michael Omartian is perhaps best known for his work as a producer and arranger. He has produced albums for a multitude of artists, earning recognition for his ability to craft hits and shape the sound of popular music. Notably, he was the producer behind Christopher Cross’s self-titled debut album, which won five Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, in 1981. Omartian’s production work on this album marked the first time in Grammy history that an artist had won the “Big Four” categories (Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist) in a single year.

### Contributions to Christian Music

In addition to his mainstream success, Omartian has been a pioneering figure in contemporary Christian music. He has worked with artists like Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, contributing to the genre’s growth and acceptance within the broader music industry. His work in Christian music has earned him multiple Dove Awards, which are awarded by the Gospel Music Association.

### Solo Work

Omartian has also released several solo albums throughout his career, showcasing his skills as a composer and musician. These works often blend pop, jazz, and Christian themes, further highlighting his versatility as an artist.

### Personal Life and Beliefs

Michael Omartian’s Christian faith plays a central role in his life and work. His beliefs have influenced his career choices and the projects he chooses to undertake. He has been open about his faith, using his platform in the music industry to share his beliefs and inspire others.

### Legacy

Michael Omartian’s legacy in the music industry is marked by his versatility, musicality, and the significant impact he has had on both secular and Christian music. His contributions have not only shaped the sound of individual artists and albums but have also influenced the direction of popular music over several decades. As a respected figure in the industry, Omartian’s work continues to inspire new generations of musicians and producers.

4 thoughts on “Michael Omartian: One of the Unsung Giants of Music – Rick Beato — “These interviews should be in the Library of Congress” — great info on true session musicianship”

  1. “I played with Chris Cross in high school, and we hadn’t seen each other for 10 years. When Chris was ready to go on the road, my name was mentioned, and Chris said, yea, give Hank a call. I got these lame charts to look over, and I asked his manager “Can I get the pre-release tapes?”, and he gave them to me. I am a jazzer, and I transcribe all the time. The intro to Sailing was this rich arrangement. It’s open stacked 6ths, which is a stellar idea for strings, and it’s got a backwards circle of fifths progression of parallel minor 7th chords reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing…a really creative idea, Michael! I worked it out, and on the audition I nailed it. I remember Chris came over and said “How’d you do that?” I was hired immediately. Michael Omartian didn’t mention it but he got a Grammy for Best String Arrangement for Sailing. Chris, and Tommy, and Andy, and James, we’re all still great friends. Kudos, Rick, to a definitive interview!”


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