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Steve Schalchlin
Biographical Information


Steve Schalchlin


Steve Schalchlin, the composer/lyricist of New World Waking! is best known for writing the music and lyrics to two critically-acclaimed, award-winning off-Broadway pop gospel musicals The Last Session and The Big Voice: God or Merman? (which the New York Times called, "...a triumphant, hilarious and utterly enthralling evening of musical theater. Marvel at the romantic sweep of the songs.") written with his life partner of 23 years, playwright and actor, Jim Brochu. (http://jimbrochu.com). 


Steve, born in 1953, grew up the son of a Baptist minister and piano-playing nurse from Arkansas. His beloved parents are trying very hard to figure out how to be proud of him, bless their little hearts. He draws his musical influences from the small town gospel church music he grew up with, along with the Top 40 radio of the late 60s/early 70s, blues he learned on the Texas Gulf Coast, protest folk and, later in life, musical theater. 


Among his awards and nominations:

  • Best Musical Score, L.A. Drama Critics Circle, 1997 & 2003
  • Best L.A. Theatre Production, GLAAD Media Awards, 1997
  • Best Musical L.A. Ovation Awards (LA's equivalent of the Tony), 2005
  • Best Musical Nomination NY Drama League, 1997
  • Best Musical Nomination NY Outer Critics Circle, 1997
  • Best Theatrical Production nomination, Off-Broadway GLAAD Media Awards 2004
  • Best Theatrical Production nomination L.A. GLAAD Media Awards, 2004
  • Best Musical, ADA Awards, 2005
  • Best Musical Director, ADA Awards, 2005
  • Best Lead Actor in a a Musical nomination, L.A. Ovation Awards, 2005
  • PFLAG-LA Oscar Wilde Award, 1997 & 2003
  • Best Concert of a Musical Desert Theatre League Awards 2005
  • Best Original Writing, Desert Theatre League Awards 2005

As a singer, Steve believes in the healing power of music, crediting the writing of The Last Session (http://thelastsession.com)as having saved his life, and his personal brand of musical storytelling appears in his ever-evolving solo concert, "Living in the Bonus Round," which has been featured at such prestigious venues as Harvard University, Stanford University, Indiana University, Penn State, and many other major universities, colleges, high schools, concert halls, coffee houses and living rooms across the country. 

As an actor, he's appeared in his own shows, both on the road and off-Broadway, and he produces home made music videos and video blogs with his partner, Jim (youtube.com/steveshack) featuring many of the celebrities from Brochu's long life in the New York theater. He credits Brochu with teaching him about theatrical storytelling. 

He has released two solo albums, "Bonus Round Sessions" and "Beyond The Light," with proceeds benefiting Youth Guardian Services (http://youthguard.org), a peer support group for GLBT youth and their straight allies.

His website (bonusround.com), created in March of 1996, "Living in the Bonus Round," has twice been featured in the New York Times for his groundbreaking use of the Internet in creating one of the first personal online AIDS diaries, a "proto-blog." Named a Landmark website by Yahoo/GeoCities, it was created from his deathbed (except that he didn't die).

He volunteers time as a Board member of GLBT support organizations, Families United Against (http://fuah.org) Hate and Youth Guardian Services. He marched with Soulforce (http://soulforce.org) on the historic first march to Jerry Falwell's church. He was a featured performer at the PFLAG national conference and speaker at the March on Washington.

He's been profiled in such media as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, People Magazine, POZ, the San Francisco Chronicle, and MSNBC, but mostly he and Jim live a quiet life in North Hollywood, California.

Steve will always be in debt to pop star George Michael for allowing him to play John Lennon's IMAGINE piano in the front yard of Gabi and Alec Clayton in memory of their son, Bill, who committed suicide after a gay bashing. (It was during that moment, playing an instrument of peace in a place of violence, that he conceived New World Waking!). Steve's personal video blogs of the event begin here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZ-lAy3Yxow

Steve is grateful to Jim Brochu for keeping him alive, to Artistic Director of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, Kathleen McGuire for her vision, to Executive Director Teddy Witherington of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus for his creative mind and to the entire SFGMC for their emotional commitment and artistic excellence in developing this piece.


Steve's early musical development was in the church where his mom played piano for the tiny country congregations. His piano lessons began when he was 7, but he wasn't a particularly good student. He hated practicing his lessons. But he did love the church music he had grown up with and at the age of 10, after his family moved to Anaheim, California, he began playing for his dad's congregation of 12.

Though he enjoyed playing in church, he thought the piano was basically for "squares" until the day he looked into Paul McCartney's eyes on the night The Beatles sang "Hey Jude" on Ed Sullivan, a moment which also turned him gay. And he realized the piano could be cool, too.

His family's move to a tiny backwoods town in east Texas on the Gulf Coast led Steve, in his high school years, to hanging out with the local blues and rock musicians. And though he couldn't join a dance band (since Baptists don't dance or drink), he found himself, instead, rocking out the little congregation each Sunday until his mother finally scolded him, "The church is not a rock group."

At Jacksonville Baptist College in east Texas, Steve, on a full tuition scholarship, began learning music theory and was chosen for vocal leads in the liberal arts school's Gospel quartet, choir and mixed ensemble. Under the training of Professor Gerald Orr, he also began arranging for all the groups and taking his first baby steps toward composition. He also joined an off-campus "Baptist rock band."

After earning his AA degree in Music Education, he left college to tour full time, by now writing most of the material for the band. Unfortunately for them, he also, now in his 20s, had begun to stop fighting his same sex attraction. 

It was the late 70s. One night, at the 7/11, he met an out gay boy his own age, fell tails over head in puppy love and told the band he was now an atheist, a piece of news he thought they could handle more easily than the truth. (He was right.) 

Cliff wasn't interested in falling in love (with Steve), so Steve moved to Denton, Texas just north of Dallas with group of Iranian engineering students who he had met working in the kitchen of a Mexican Restaurant after dropping out of the band.

Working as a night shift waiter at an IHOP, Steve met a transgender dishwasher who told him where he could find gay people in Dallas. This led him to being cast as a singing/dancing waiter at a "high class" dinner theater called the Gran' Crystal Palace even though he knew nothing of musical theater, had never so much as seen a musical, and had no knowledge of jazz or New York or Gershwin or Sinatra or Sondheim.

To his surprise, he found that his storytelling songs were a perfect fit for theatre, and he began writing love duets and anthems for the stage shows. Unfortunately, the Gran' Crystal Palace was on its last legs, so he accepted a job as musical director for a Vegas-bound Donny and Marie-style act, while writing songs and making demos with the other band members on the side.

Eventually, though, he landed back in New York, singing and playing down on Christopher Street where he played hustler bars and cabaret clubs, teaching himself the American Songbook along the way. He took particular pride in his interpretations of Stephen Sondheim and Jerry Herman.

A year-long gig on a cruise line out of New York led him to meet his now life partner, Jim Brochu, who had just lost his father to cancer. They collaborated on a few songs for a children's show, A Wonderful Worldful of Christmas, which got published by Samuel French.

A job offer for Jim from Hollywood brought the couple out where Steve immediately jumped into the Los Angeles music scene by volunteering, and then quickly becoming managing director of the National Academy of Songwriters, a job that got him back into his first love, the art and craft of songwriting.

During this time, he created and led workshops and seminars, and co-produced fundraisers with some of the top songwriters in the world, including Stevie Wonder, Bacharach and David, etc.

For Steve it was like being back in college. Except now he was studying at the feet of the masters doing the craft he loved the most. Whomever he wanted to meet, he would just call them and ask them to do a seminar.

NAS quickly grew and pulled itself out of debt, added hundreds of hit songwriters to its membership and was becoming a real community of songwriters, but then Steve was diagnosed with HIV. His progression to full blown AIDS took about a year.

In 1994, Steve Schalchlin was told he had a year left to live. Looking skeletal, he was living mostly flat on his back. But his beloved Aunt Frieda, who lives with emphysema, wanted to know more about how he was feeling. So, he painfully made his way to the little upright piano his partner, Jim, had grown up with, and wrote a song called "Connected."

He discovered that the more he played and sang, the stronger he got. So, Jim set him to writing more and more songs as a form of musical therapy.

Brochu then took those songs and created a musical called The Last Session about a songwriter with AIDS. But Steve's health was beginning to fail again.

From his sickbed, he put his geek knowledge to use and became one of the first persons to create an online diary. Intended as a way to keep his doctor and family apprised of his health on a daily basis, this "goodbye" letter to the world began to attract a great deal of attention across the globe, especially when Steve made it into the Crixivan lottery and his readers saw him literally come back to life.

Fourteen months later, he saw The Last Session became a cult off-Broadway smash -- which meant that he had also unintentionally created the first website for an off-Broadway show.

The Last Session also brought in a slew of "Best Musical" nominations in New York.

Living in the Bonus Round, the website, quickly achieved worldwide recognition leading to an article in the NY Times Business Section and an invitation by the Harvard School of Public Health for Steve to discuss his experiences of health education online, a new idea at the time.

He sang a concert sponsored by the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Student Association which led to more concerts around the country.

In 2006, Steve and Jim wrote (and starred in) a second critically acclaimed off-Broadway production, The Big Voice: God or Merman? about their real life gay marriage. In Los Angeles, the production garnered the coveted L.A. Ovation Award for Best Musical.

In 2007, Steve and Jim brought The Big Voice to the New Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco where they played a sold out, critically acclaimed run. During this run, Steve auditioned New World Waking! for Dr. Kathleen McGuire of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus.

Steve serves as a volunteer Board member of Youth Guardian Services and Families United Against Hate and is a member of the pop artrock group collective based out of Oakland, CA called "Preoccupied Pipers."

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