Harvey Granat and the art of selling himself

Harvey Granat and the art of selling himself
Harvey Granat has been performing and lecturing on the great American Songbook for over 20 years.

In both music and business, Harvey Granat has risen to the top, which he attributes to the art of selling by either pitching to prospects or marketing his vocal talents. Putting his musical ambitions as a performer on hold, he built a successful business career until two decades ago when he started singing professionally in his mid-60s.

Born and raised in the Five Towns and a resident of  Great Neck for over 30 years, Port Washington and the Berkshires, Granat’s journey as a cabaret singer, lecturer, Broadway producer and music historian started during his discovery of his “unusual voice” in adolescence.

His experiences in both the music industry and the world of finance have led him to master the art of selling, whether by captivating an audience with his performances or impressing potential business partners.

“Music has always been an important part of my family,” Granat said. In childhood, the sounds and influence of the Great American Standards shaped his musical interests. This, coupled with his unique voice, paved the way for him to perform at various school events, charity functions and family gatherings.

With a strong on-pitch voice, Granat was a natural performer, but he focused instead on building his business in equipment leasing and beginning his collection of valuable composer manuscripts and letters. Currently, he is a Managing Director of CSG Partners, the country’s leading employee stock ownership plans advisory firm. “I have a lot of partners in that so that allows me to do more performing,” he said.

His business success enabled him to pursue singing “in a more important way for myself, and I guess one of the first things I did was got involved with C.W. Post,” Granat said. For five years, he led successful programs that combined performances with insightful lectures about the American Songbook. Each program focused on different composers or lyricists, and during this time he was hitting his “own personal bulls-eye.”

Sharing the historical context of the melodies and lyrics made students really listen to the pieces and retain them. Granat often taught Gershwin, drawing from his own collection of manuscripts and letters that he later donated a portion to the Library of Congress. Dubbed the Granat, George and Ira Gershwin Collection, about 30 items he donated to the library are available for scholarly discussion and analysis.

Describing his journey as both a performer and a collector of musical treasures, Granat recalls the pivotal moment when he shared his collection of precious Gershwin letters and manuscripts with singer, pianist and music revivalist Michael Feinstein, his friend and a colleague.

He remembers seeing him at a club in Manhattan, about two decades ago before Feinstein started Feinstein’s at the Regency, and told him he had a collection of highly valuable Gershwin letters and manuscripts. The result was Feinstein playing the original manuscript of “They Can’t Take That Away from Me.”

“It was thrilling, that was our connection,” Granat said. Later Granat handed Feinstein a CD of him singing that he would give family and friends. Feinstein told him he should sing professionally.

Six months later, Granat told Feinstein his dream was to perform at his club and asked would it be possible for him to perform there. Feinstein told him he only booked big stars with big audiences, “I have a big family,” Granat replied.

Over the years, Granat has performed as a cabaret singer at venues such as the Stephen C. Widom Cultural Arts at Temple Emanuel in Great Neck, Canyon Ranch in Lenox, MA, and numerous other venues.

Drawing parallels between his music career and business ventures, Granat said it’s all about knowing how to sell yourself. “I don’t have an agent,” he said, “I don’t have a manager. And yet I’ve gotten into some of the greatest venues and the most wonderful series and programs. Because in my business career, I’ve learned how to sell, how to get the door open, how to make a presentation.”

A highlight for Granat was his role in arranging a special concert in conjunction with the Sinatra Centennial performed at Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts, which was pared with a major exhibit and panel discussions for the occasion.

“I did my homework and found out who was running the whole thing,” Granat recalled, “And I said, ‘How about a show? How about a Frank Sinatra show? I said, you know, I produced Sammy Cahn on Broadway, the four-time Academy Award winning songwriter who wrote more lyrics for Frank Sinatra than any other lyricist. I said if I put a program together, Frank Sinatra with lyrics by Sammy Cahn, would that be of interest? And the woman wrote back to me, and she said, You got it! Let’s book it.”

It was backstage the night of the performance that he thought to himself “you did it, kid.”

As Granat continues to perform and educate, he reflects “I live a good life now,” content in his pursuits and his “wonderful family,” including eight grandchildren. “I’m in a good place and (I’d) like to be able to stay in this place and continue the good balance that I have in my life.”

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