Multi-hyphenate musical executive Freddie Gershon has been an entertainment attorney, a serious music student at The Julliard School, talent magnet for songwriters and performers, film and theater producer, early proponent of protecting intellectual property, a central participant in many of the defining moments of contemporary pop culture through his work in music, film and theater, teacher and best-selling author.
Today, he is Chairman and CEO of Music Theatre International (MTI), one of the largest, oldest licensing companies of theatre musicals in the world which represents the dramatic performing rights to such classics as “West Side Story,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Meredith Willson's The Music Man,” “Guys & Dolls,” “Annie,” “Les Miserables,”, all of the works of composer/lyricist Frank Loesser (its founder in 1952) as well as over 300 other titles.
He conceived of and established “Broadway Junior,” a program to introduce elementary, middle and high school students to the Broadway experience in the 1990s. Students are provided with a “Broadway show in a box,” which gives schools everything they need to produce age-appropriate 60-70 minute versions of the most-popular shows, including “Annie,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Guys and Dolls,” “High School Musical,” “West Side Story,” “Into the Woods,” “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Schoolhouse Rock” and many others. MTI has licensed hundreds of thousands of these school productions in the last two decades.
MTI represents the so-called “grand rights” in musicals, so Gershon decided to expand into the area of representing “small performing rights” in 1992. He became co-chairman and a principal of SESAC, a privately held small performing rights organization founded in 1930, representing music publishers and songwriters to license and police their music for performance use in broadcast and non-broadcast exploitation in the United States of America. SESAC works with artists ranging from Bob Dylan and Neil Simon to the most-popular Latin, Hip Hop and Country artists to television shows (“Seinfeld,” “Two and Half Men,” “Frasier”), and even elevator and sports stadium music.
After graduating from Columbia Law School Freddie joined a music/theatrical law firm. “Freddie-the-Lawyer” was a young practitioner in New York for such emerging talents as film director Michael Ritchie (“Downhill Racer” and “The Candidate”), Ron Field (choreographer/director of “Cabaret” / “Zorba” / “Applause”), playwright Tom Eyen (“Dreamgirls”), composers Neil Sedaka, Marvin Hamlisch, Carole Bayer Sager, Lesley Gore and Shel Silverstein, and performing artists including Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Dr. Hook, Orleans, Jack Bruce, Phil Ochs, Chicago, Peter Allen and Bette Midler. He was also counsel to several theatrical projects and his practice grew with the addition of many of the biggest music names in history.
He was affiliated (and worked on) with such entertainment properties as “All in the Family,” “Beacon Hill,” “Tommy” (his first film, co-starring The Who, Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, Jack Nicholson, Ann-Margret and Elton John), followed by “Grease,” “Saturday Night Fever” and “The Fan,” early legendary soundtracks such as “Fame,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Bugsy Malone,” “Saturday Night Fever,” “Grease” and “Return of the Jedi,”
(“Grease” and “Saturday Night Fever” still rank as among the largest-selling soundtracks in motion picture history (combined sales in excess of 50,000,000 double albums), theater productions including “Hair,” “Oh! Calcutta!,” “Pippin,” “Jesus Christ Superstar, “Sweeney Todd,” “Evita” and “La Cage Aux Folles.”
In the mid 1980s, Gershon escalated his involvement with his alma mater, Columbia Law School, as well as Yale, Cardozo, Pepperdine, New York Law, The Julliard School, NYU and others as a lecturer and teacher on subjects relating to entertainment law and intellectual property. He sought to get recognition in law schools for intellectual property rights to be integrated into their curricula. It was during that time that he wrote his bestselling novel, “Sweetie, Baby, Cookie, Honey,” published by Hearst and a 1986 bestseller about the an era in rock and roll that Freddie knew quite well.
In 2012 Freddie received a Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre for creating the Broadway Junior Collection.
Freddie and his wife, Myrna, live in New York.