Andra Velis Simon
Andra Velis Simon works extensively in Chicago and around the country as a music director, adapter, arranger, pianist, vocal coach, and educator.
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 The Goodman, Steppenwolf, Firebrand, Porchlight, and Northlight, to name just a few.
Andra is a Practitioner in Residence at Columbia College Chicago, where she has taught musical theatre performance since 2008. She was also the Theatre Department’s full-time staff Music Director for eight years. Her former students are performing in regional theatres, on national tours, and on Broadway. At Columbia, she has music directed Head Over Heels, Cabaret, Urinetown, Allegro, Little Shop of Horrors, Into the Woods, Violet, Rent, Floyd Collins, LaChiusa’s The Wild Party, Chicago, Pirates of Penzance, and many others.
In addition, Andra has taught with Northwestern University’s summer “Cherubs” program for the National High School Institute, Tennessee Governor's School for the Arts, and was a guest teacher at Rose Bruford College in the UK.
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.
With The Hypocrites theatre company, Andra arranged and music directed 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 production of American Idiot.
Andra also works regularly with Chicago Children’s Theatre, where she has music directed, arranged, and/or accompanied numerous hit productions and remounts, including The Hundred Dresses, A Year With Frog and Toad, and the world premiere of Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, Cheryl West, Lamont Dozier and Paris Ray Dozier.
Other notable productions include: Next to Normal at Writers Theatre, directed by Tony Award-winner David Cromer; the world premiere of Isaac Gómez's La Ruta at Steppenwolf, directed by Sandra Marquez; European opera director Calixto Bieito's take on Tennessee Williams' Camino Real at The Goodman Theatre; the Midwest premiere of Mr. Burns: a post-electric play by Anne Washburn at Theater Wit; Boojum!, an existential chamber opera and surprise runaway hit at the former Storefront Theatre downtown; 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.
Member of the Chicago Federation of Musicians, Maestra Music, and TCG.
Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, Andra currently lives in Chicago with her spouse Jamie and their cuddly, 80-pound Rottweiler mix, Cooper.