Raised in New Jersey in the shadow of Broadway, Michael Lasser is a lecturer, writer, broadcaster, critic, and teacher. Growing up “with Manhattan on my left and the Jersey Shore on my right,” he saw his first Broadway musical at the age of ten. “I can’t imagine my life without the theater and its songs,” he says.
He and Philip Furia are co-authors of the new book, America’s Songs: The Stories Behind the Songs of Broadway, Hollywood, and Tin Pan Alley.
Those songs are the basis for his nationally syndicated public radio program, Fascinatin’ Rhythm, winner of a 1994 Peabody Award. He is currently at work on a new book, tentatively titled That Pleasant Ache: How Long Song Lyrics Sang About Us, 1900-1950.
For 20 years, Lasser was also the theater critic for The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, and a member of the Speaker’s Bureau of the New York Council for the Humanities. He has spoken at universities and art and history museums in 34 states and the District of Columbia, and also appears with two singers in cabaret-style performances enhanced by his knowledge of the songwriters, the music’s history, and how the songs amuse us and stir our emotions.
He has taught the history of the Broadway musical at colleges and universities, and has been a free-lance writer for a wide range of national magazines. He was also a major contributor to the standard work, American Song Lyricists, 1920-1960.
A former teacher of English, Lasser served as a panelist for the New York State Council on the Arts, and for 15 years, was the director and curator of the not-for-profit Wilson Arts Center in Rochester. He has also taught at Rutgers University, St. John Fisher College, and Fairleigh-Dickinson University.
He is a graduate of Dartmouth College, holds an M.A. from Brooklyn College, and did additional graduate work at Rutgers University. He is married and has two grown children and one grandchild.