Andra Velis Simon works extensively in Chicago and around the country as a music director, adapter, arranger, pianist and vocal coach.
Regionally, Andra has worked with Actors Theatre of Louisville, A.R.T. in Cambridge, Berkeley Rep, Brooklyn Academy of Music, NYU’s Skirball Center, Olney Theatre Center, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Pasadena Playhouse, and Three Oaks. In Chicago, she has collaborated with dozens of arts organizations, including Steppenwolf, The Goodman, Porchlight and Northlight, to name just a few. Andra is the Resident Music Director for Firebrand Theatre, where she music directed their inaugural production of LIZZIE directed by Victoria Bussert, as well as Caroline, or Change directed by Lili-Anne Brown, 9 to 5: The Musical directed by Harmony France, and Always... Patsy Cline directed by Brigitte Ditmars.
Andra is an adjunct faculty member at Columbia College Chicago, where she teaches various musical theatre performance courses. She was also the Theatre Department’s staff Music Director from 2008-2016. At Columbia, she has taught classes or led productions with Chicago theatre luminaries Tom Mula, Sheldon Patinkin, Barbara Robertson, Stephanie Shaw, and many others. She has music directed Columbia’s productions of Urinetown, Allegro, Little Shop of Horrors, Into the Woods, Violet, The Photographer, City on the Make, Rent, Floyd Collins, LaChiusa’s The Wild Party, Chicago, and Pirates of Penzance. She has also taught with Northwestern University’s summer “Cherubs” program for the National High School Institute, and was a guest teacher at Rose Bruford in the UK.
Andra works regularly with Chicago Children’s Theatre, where she has music directed, arranged, and/or accompanied numerous hit productions: The Hundred Dresses (original production and several remounts), A Year With Frog and Toad (twice), Goodnight, Moon directed by Lookingglass Theatre’s David Kersnar, and the world premiere of Last Stop on Market Street, based on the award-winning book by Matt de la Peña, adapted by Cheryl West and directed by Henry Godinez, with music by Lamont and Paris Dozier.
With The Hypocrites theatre company, Andra music directed and arranged Sean Graney's contemporary takes on Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado and H.M.S. Pinafore, where an ensemble of ten actors serve as their own orchestra. All three adaptations have received multiple remounts at theatres around the country, leading to a commission from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to create a country-western adaptation of Yeomen of the Guard, which premiered in 2016. Also with The Hypocrites, Andra adapted and music directed Cinderella at the Theater of Potatoes about the life and work of Pauline Viardot, and music directed an actor-musician version of American Idiot.
Other notable productions include: Next to Normal at Writers Theatre, directed by Tony Award-winner David Cromer; the world premiere of La Ruta by Issac Gomez at Steppenwolf, directed by Sandra Marquez; European opera director Calixto Bieito's take on Tennessee Williams' Camino Real and Robert Fall's monumental production of The Iceman Cometh, both at The Goodman Theatre; the Midwest premiere of Mr. Burns: a post-electric play and 10 out of 12, both written by Anne Washburn and produced at Theater Wit; Bailiwick’s production of Violet at the Mercury Theatre; Boojum!, an existential chamber opera and surprise runaway hit at the city’s Storefront Theatre; and Boho Theatre’s Songs for a New World, remounted several times throughout Chicago and Illinois (including a command performance of selections at a party thrown by Rick Bayless).
Areas of special expertise include actor-musician productions and arrangements, harmonic vocal arrangements, pit reductions, the development of new musicals, coaching vocalists at all skill levels, and interpreting the works of contemporary composers.
Andra offers private voice and audition coaching, and also is available for musical theatre audition master classes based on a very popular Musical Theatre Audition Workshop course she created at Columbia College.
Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, Andra currently lives in Chicago with her spouse Jamie and their cuddly, 80-pound Rottweiler mix, Cooper.