Northeastern Music Department alumnus Kevin Antunes spoke on campus on Friday, September 25. Antunes is currently the keyboardist and musical director for Madonna’s Rebel Heart tour and has worked with Madonna since 2008. Previous credits include Cirque Du Soleil’s MJ One and The Immortal productions (featuring the music of Michael Jackson), Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, NKOTBSB (New Kids on the Block / Backstreet Boys), Britney Spears, Janet Jackson, and several Superbowl and Grammy Awards performances.
Antunes spoke to a crowd of 150 people, including students from Prof. Bob Lyons and Prof. Michelle Conceison’s classes, as well as members of the Northeastern community.
He praised Madonna for her “immense creative energy, that makes everyone want to do their best and go the extra mile.” He admires the fact that Madonna is never interested in having a “greatest hits” tour, as many artists are, rather she always features new material and a new presentation.
“You have all been to many shows,” he said “and most of the time you leave the show and say ‘wow, that was fun.’ But sometimes you are just captivated, and it was a transforming experience. We work to have at least two or three of those moments in every show.”
He also recounted how he was hired to create new mixes from Michael Jackson’s master tapes for Cirque Soleil shows in Las Vegas. Before Warner Brothers would give him access to the tapes, they installed a special safe in his house to protect the master material.
He also led an open discussion about current issues in the music industry, including the copyright infringement judgment against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams.
Regarding Northeastern and the Music Industry Program, he said
It’s so worth it. My time at Northeastern was so valuable… I took a variety of courses from statistics to economics, and all of that knowledge has come back to help me. Once you have this background at Northeastern, there is a level of respect that [major artists] give you. With that background that I had at this level, at this university, I earned respect from Madonna.
Antunes also mentioned that he has kept in touch with professors from Northeastern, especially Prof. Bruce Ronkin, and was thrilled to be able to stop by Northeastern to chat with students while on tour with Madonna. He referred to Northeastern’s music students as “the future of music, the next wave.”