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The Director - Anthony Lai

Anthony Joseph Lai is an active and eclectic composer, conductor, and music educator. He works not only within the classical milieu, but also in popular music, where he is an accomplished songwriter, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist.  He became the director of the Seaway Chorale and Orchestra in 2014.

His musicianship draws upon a extensive list of influences.  First—and most notably—is the music of the Beatles, which lit the fire for his pursuit of a music career.  His love for orchestral music can be credited to George Martin’s orchestrations, along with the quirky music of old Warner Bros. and Disney cartoons, and the masterful film scores of James Horner (Star Trek II) and Howard Shore (The Lord of the Rings trilogy). The work of Debussy, Copland, Holst, and Corigliano were also influential in shaping his compositional style.


Nominated as “Outstanding Classical Composer” in the Detroit Music Awards in 2015, 2014, and 2012, his music seeks to find a balance between complexity and accessibility.  His work has been commissioned by several notable parties, including the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Red Wings, and University of Michigan professor Donald Sinta, a leading performer of contemporary classical saxophone repertoire. His orchestrations have been performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Wayne State University Orchestra, Henry Ford Big Band, and the Flux Quartet.


He has scored eight theatre productions for Henry Ford College in Dearborn, including their Virtual Theatricality Lab’s 2014 interactive multi-media production Dinosaurus! and the 2013 mini-musical Snow White and the Dwarves.


In 2013, he conducted a live-premiere performance of his score to the silent film Death of a Snowbird, commissioned by and performed at the International Broke Student Film Festival. The year prior, he worked with the Experimental Performing Arts Association to compose Movement Macbeth, a dark, synth-driven score to an avant-garde silent performance of Shakespeare.


Lai is an experienced and versatile guitarist with a background in both rock groups and jazz ensembles. In 2012, he collaborated with members of Lynyrd Skynyrd in Nashville to record downriver native Sarah Sherrard's EP, Where I Come From. With the Henry Ford Big Band, he performed at the 2015 Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, Italy and at the 2009 Michigan Democratic Party’s inaugural ball for President Obama. His original music can be found at or wherever you stream or download music.


Lai holds an M.M. in conducting and a B.M. in composition from Wayne State University. He has studied under James Hartway, Kypros Markou, Robert Conway, G. Kevin Dewey, and Randall Knight. In addition to directing the Seaway Chorale and Orchestra, he is a music instructor at Henry Ford College, lead guitarist with The Sarah Sherrard Band, guitarist and vocalist for the Greenfield Village Singers, and bassist for Phoenix Theory.


Seaway Chorale's amazing director, Anthony Lai, promised the kids in our "Voices of the Young" choir that he would do the whip/nae nae dance if they did both performances in our Spring show well. He always follows through with his promises so here is the video..... He is such a great role model for these kids!!!


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