KEYBOARD PLAYER JUSTIN C. GILBERT KNOWS THAT “overnight success” usually means a lot of hard work behind the scenes before the spotlight finds its mark. Gilbert’s star-studded résumé includes stints with Jill Scott, Eminem and Jay-Z. And most recently, Gilbert spent two full years touring with another guy named Justin. Timberlake, that is.
AS TAYLOR SWIFT’S TOURING BASSIST, AMOS HELLER OCCUPIES one of the highest-profile sideman chairs in music—and he’s having the time of his life. That's especially true right now, as the band is in the midst of a world tour for Swift's record-breaking smash album 1989.
IF IT WEREN’T FOR PUNK, Erik Sandin might not have played drums—or any instrument at all. But in 1981 his neighborhood punk band needed a drummer, so 15-year-old Erik became one. Two years later, he and two Los Angeles friends formed NOFX, which would go on to become one of the most successful and long-running punk bands ever.
TROY LAURETA SITS ATTHE KEYBOARD of a gleaming white grand piano. Perched atop the piano is multitalented, multi-octave pop vocalist Ariana Grande, singing the title ballad from My Everything, her GRAMMY®-nomi-nated 2014 LP. It’s an intimate, heartfelt moment in an otherwise action-packed set, and when Grande breaks into tears, Laureta is right there to keep her going, smiling in encouragement as he continues to play. Meanwhile, the audience—a sold-out crowd at New York’s famed Madison Square Garden—cheers them both on as only 20,000 fervent fans can do.
NO ONE EXPECTED Tay Strathairn to grow up to be a piano player—least of all himself.
FROM INTERNET PHENOMENON TO DOUBLE-PLATINUM recording artist, singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat has spent the last eight years evolving from fledgling artist to poised pop professional. Since her initial breakthrough with the infectious song “Bubbly” on MySpace, Colbie has released five hit albums, including her most recent, Gypsy Heart, in late 2014.
David Choi may not be the first musician to build a career without the backing of a record label, but few artists have done it as successfully. Nearly a million fans subscribe to the 29-year-old singer/songwriter’s YouTube channel, and his videos have racked up an astonishing hundred million views. Choi’s online audience eagerly purchases his CDs and attends his shows, and his recently released fourth album, Stories of You’s and Me, promises to be his biggest yet.
Eddie Palmieri is one of the most important figures in the history of Latin music. Over his six-decade career, the 78-year-old pianist, composer, and arranger has demonstrated total mastery of the music’s traditions—and an astonishing ability to expand them. With his landmark 1975 album, The Sun of Latin Music, he was the first musician to win a Latin GRAMMY®—his first of nine such awards. He received a Jazz Masters award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and his music is enshrined in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.
Joseph Anthony Somers-Morales, a.k.a. SoMo, has a simple but effective musical philosophy.

"If it sounds good," he says, "people will listen to it."