Mike Renzi, of Middletown, RI and Boca Raton, Florida died on September 29 at Newport Hospital following a brief illness. Mike, born in Providence, the son of Ernest and Elvia Renzi was a Composer, Musical Director, Arranger, Pianist and Jazz Musician. He graduated from The Boston Conservatory of Music in 1973 and from Berklee College College of Music the following year. After graduation, he worked with local bands as accompanist to visiting artists. Many of his nights were spent at The Kings and Queens and at Allary’s, a local jazz club in downtown Providence. Years later he received a special key to the City of Providence by Mayor Buddy Cianci, and was inducted into both the RI Music Hall of Fame and RI Heritage Hall of Fame.
In 1976, Mike moved to New York City to expand his reach into his music career and from the 70s to the early 2000s, he appeared on scores of albums, both as a pianist and arranger. It was there that he began as Musical Director of “Sesame Street”, a position he held for many seasons until retirement. Mike received 16 Emmy Nominations for his work on “Sesame Street” and the soap opera, “All my Children”. He was honored with seven Emmys, one of which stood on his beloved Steinway.
After his retirement, Mike moved to Middletown where he continued to share his priceless gift of music. He could be found every Wednesday night as the entertainment at Sardella’s Restaurant in Newport surrounded by his adoring fans. He also played many gigs around the state accompanying his old friend, Dick Lupino and the Dick Lupino Trio. More recently, he could be found playing to an appreciative audience at Greenvale Vineyards in Portsmouth with Paul Del Nero on Bass and Rick Wells on Drums.
“He was one of the most respected and gifted musicians of this generation”, said Dick Robinson, founder of The Society for the Preservation of The Great American
Songbook, as he presented Mike with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019 for his passion and commitment to the American Songbook. Mike was the arranger and composer to many vocalists during his distinguished career such as Peggy Lee, Mel Tormé, and Lena Horne, Jack Jones, Liza Minelli, Maureen McGovern and many other well known vocalists.
Mike also accompanied Tony Bennett as both arranger and pianist on Mr. Bennett’s last world tour. He drew special acclaim for his accompaniment with Lady GaGa on the CD “Cheek to Cheek”.
He leaves an extended family in both Rhode Island and Florida. He also leaves his many loyal jazz loving friends from both far and near who were privileged to be the recipients of his unforgettable talent.
There will be a private celebration of Mike’s life.
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