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Dr. E. Mike Vasilomanolakis wins Grammy as executive producer of New Age recording artist Omar Akram
Omar Akram of Long Beach is a highly acclaimed pianist and songwriter who released his latest album Echoes of Love in June 2012. It was nominated for “Best New Age Album” at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards Show Sunday evening and Akram won in that category.
Omar’s previous albums have been Billboard hits and include Opal Fire, Free as a Bird and Secret Journey.
He was born in New York but lived in various countries throughout the world as he was the son of the Afghani Ambassador to the Czech Republic, France and Cuba. His music incorporates flavors from other countries and truly has an international touch.
In late 1996 Dr. E. Mike Vasilomanolakis – an interventional cardiologist practicing in Long Beach for the past 30 years – was approached by a friend and asked how his investments were doing. This friend then asked have you ever thought of investing in a human being. He proceeded to talk about a fellow co-worker who wrote and played beautiful music and who was looking for someone to help him get a record deal.
One week later Omar came to “Dr. Mike’s” clinic carrying a shopping bag full of cassette tapes. They spent the afternoon listening to the tapes and Dr. Mike was moved by his music. He agreed to help Omar record an album.
Several years later record label company Real Music of Sausalito, Calif., heard the music and signed Omar to a contract. Dr. Mike has been his executive producer ever since.
From his office practice next to Community Hospital Dr. Vasilomanolakis states that Omar is an outstanding artist and musical genius who has been patiently waiting to see his career move to the next level.
“You have to pay your dues in this industry. It appears that he has. He now waits to see if he makes it to the top,” Dr. Mike said.
The Grammy Awards were broadcast on CBS from the Staples Center on Feb. 10.
Excerpted from the Long Beach Beachcomber
Dr. Vasilomanolakis remembers the long journey to the fruition of a dream:
I remember when I was a teenager attending high school in Chicago. I would take the private school bus of the Greek parochial school Plato at 6 AM. The only other passenger was a fellow schoolmate of mine and my best friend in high school. Our fathers were best friends as well. It would be quite cold in the morning in Chicago and we would quietly and half-asleep sit on that bus till we arrived at the distant location of our high school Lane Tech. This high school of 5500 boys all of whom had to take a proficiency examination to enter, boasted how it would have more students go on to receive PhD degrees than any other high school in the country. By the time we arrived to the high school at roughly 7 AM my best friend and I would have woken up and started talking. We would sit outside on a park bench and now actively engage in conversation. We would talk about sports, girls, but most significantly our goals and dreams.
My best friend Dimitri talked about how he wanted to become a famous author and he would eloquently describe his books and themes. He was heavily into the arts and I can remember senior year when he had the lead role in the annual high school play “Guys and Dolls.” I had different dreams, perhaps more so with political aspirations in mind. The one thing we had in common was the hope to become great basketball players.
After graduation in 1970, Dimitri and I communicated by mail. He moved to New York and I stayed on in Chicago. I went on to medical school and subsequently moved to Los Angeles. In 1988 I was inducted as a fellow of the American College of Physicians. My wife and I went to New York City to attend the ceremonies. That night we arrived for the first time to Manhattan and after checking into the Sheraton Hotel, we took a walk outside. We looked down the street and noted barricades and hundreds of people standing behind the barricades. We wondered what was going on and after arriving we looked up across the street and saw a large sign stating Radio City Music Hall. I asked someone what was going on and they informed me that the Grammy awards had just ended and people were coming out. Wow. How exciting. Here we were across the street from one of the most prestigious events of the year. I was so excited and proud to have been this close that I couldn’t wait to get back to Chicago and tell everyone how I had been across the street from the Grammys
Interestingly, during that trip, we also had dinner with my friend Dimitri and his lovely wife Caryn, the first time I saw him since 1970.
In 1996 a friend of mine came up to me and asked me how my investments were doing. He then asked have you ever thought of investing in a human being. I was surprised by this comment. He then proceeded to tell me how he worked as a travel agent with someone who wrote and played beautiful music. This person, who is Afghan American, was looking for someone to help him get a record deal. A week later this musician, Omar, came to my office with a bag full of cassette tapes. We listened to these tapes, I was moved by his music, and we have worked together ever since. I became his executive music producer and since that time we have produced four excellent New Age genre CDs. In 2006 I was made a member of the National Academy of Recording Artists and one of the fringe benefits was that I can now attend the Grammy awards.
I can remember that first Grammy award show and how excited I was. I looked back to 1988 and how exhilarating it was just to be able to stand across the street. Now I was in the doors and I couldn’t be happier. I thought this was a tremendous accomplishment for me, a nobody.
Interestingly, the story doesn’t end here. I was able to continue to work with Omar Akram and on our fourth CD which in part I helped co-write and to a very large degree promoted, networked, and marketed, we won the Grammy for Best New Age album. When they announced us as the winners, Omar and I came to the stage with the biggest smiles that you can imagine. Omar gave the thank you speech and I gave the inspirational speech.
I sit back and I think about how it all began. Those talks at 7 AM on those cold mornings outside on the park benches of our high school in Chicago were pivotal. Talking with my best friend about our dreams helped formulate ideas and goals and helped orient me to try to achieve them.
It’s funny how it all works out.