Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Gary William Friedman began his musical journey as a saxophonist and band leader at Abraham Lincoln High School.
His experience playing in local jazz groups, as well as in the show bands of the fabled Catskill Mountain resorts, served to expose him to the various (theatrical, and experimental), music scenes of the late 1950's.
While attending Brooklyn College, Friedman studied composition privately with Hall Overton.
After graduating from Brooklyn College, he subsequently studied composition privately for four years with Jan Meyerowitz. After completing his post-graduate studies in Education, at Brooklyn College, Friedman worked as a New York City licensed teacher, in various public schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Friedman also enrolled at Columbia University, to study Electronic Music Composition, with Vladimir Ussachevsky, at the Columbia-Princeton Laboratory.
He became a key member of the Free-Form Improvisational Ensemble, along with founding members, Burton Greene and Alan Silva. On September 28, 1964, the group was featured in concert at New York City's Town Hall, where Friedman's Benjamin, a Brass Quintet was also premiered.
Throughout the 1960's, Friedman composed scores for plays by Paul Foster, Tom Eyen, and Jean-Claude van Itallie, and others, at Ellen Stewart's iconic La Mama Theatre.
His first major critical and commercial success was as composer of the 1970 groundbreaking musical The Me Nobody Knows. The show won the OBIE for best musical, and transferred to Broadway in 1971, where it garnered five TONY nominations, including Best Musical. The musical went on to be produced, and performed throughout the world, in cities such as Hamburg, London, Paris and Johannesburg. Two songs from the show; "Light Sings" recorded by the Fifth Dimension, and "This World" recorded by the Staples Singers, became top 'pop singles'.
In 1980, The Me Nobody Knows was produced as a 'live' special for a SHOWTIME television presentation. It was introduced and hosted by James Earl Jones. The musical continues to be performed in stock and amateur venues.
Friedman's musical Taking My Turn won the Outer Critic's Circle Award in 1983 and was presented on PBS Television's Great Performance Series with a cast including Margaret Whiting, Marni Nixon, and Cissy Houston.
His musical The Last Supper, inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's completion of the famous mural, premiered Off-Broadway at St. Luke's Theater in 2000. It is performed in church and community theatres around the country annually.
Friedman's features and television films scores include "Full Moon High" (Feature,1981), starring Alan and Adam Arkin, "Who Gets the Friends" (T.V.,1988), starring Luci Arnaz and Jill Clayburgh, and "Bump in the Night" (T.V.,1991), starring Christopher Reeve.
In 1975 Friedman served as Music Director for television's "The Electric Company", for which he wrote over sixty songs, including the popular "Spider Man Theme Song".
From 2000 to the present, Friedman has co-produced and composed original material for several internationally acclaimed jazz recordings with his wife, vocalist and lyricist, Stevie Holland. Their CD, Before Love Has Gone (150 Music), was chosen by USA TODAY as a Top CD of The Year, in 2008.
Together Friedman and Holland created the one-woman musical Love, Linda: The Life of Mrs. Cole Porter, for which Friedman also wrote the arrangements and original music. The work had its off-Broadway premiere in 2013 at the York Theatre, starring Holland with directed by Richard Maltby, Jr. Love, Linda continues
to be performed across the globe. It was filmed in 2021, earning awards at independent festivals and is streaming on Amazon Prime / BroadwayHD.
His ballet The Pied Piper, choreographed by Mercedes Ellington, was commissioned and performed by Tales and Scales. It was premiered at the Lancaster Music Festival, July 1994, and was subsequently performed with the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra, March 12, 1995.
His ballet Puss N' Boots (1998), choreographed by Melinda Baker, was commissioned and performed by Maestro Gary Sheldon, for the Lancaster Music Festival. It was most recently performed at the Festival at Sandpoint, Idaho in August 2008.
Celebration, a contemporary setting of the traditional Jewish Friday Night Hebrew Service, initially commissioned by Roger Stevens for The Kennedy Center (1971), had its premiere, October 19, 1973, at Temple Israel of the City of New York.
Other liturgical works include Song of Songs, for Cantor, Choir and Orchestra, commissioned and performed in 1988, by Cantor Nate Lam, at Stephen Wise Synagogue, Los Angeles, CA., and An American S'Lichot, commissioned and performed by Cantor Jack Chomsky in 1983 at Congregation Tifereth Israel, Columbus, OH. An American S'Lichot is performed annually on the S'lichot holy day, at Synagogues throughout the United States. It was most recently performed September 2014, at the Washington Hebrew Congregation in D.C. performed by Cantor Mikhail Manevich.
He has written three operas: Mordecai, (libretto by Robert Reinhold) which was premiered in concert at the Kosciushko Foundation in New York City in 1979, Waning Powers (libretto by Gerald Walker), which premiered in concert, January 14, 1986, at the Vineyard Theater in New York City, and Teddy, (libretto by Herb Schapiro), which was developed, and performed in concert, with Encompass New Opera Theatre, in 2002 in New York City.
His orchestral works include Haskalah, which premiered with the Columbus Symphony (1984), and Accordion Samba, which was commissioned by The American Accordionists' Association, and premiered December 9, 2005, at Elebash Recital Hall in New York City.
In 2010 he was invited, as "Maestro of the Moment" to conduct an evening of his works, with the Davenport Pops Orchestra, at Yale University.
Ligeia, the first movement of a triptych, an orchestral chamber work inspired by the short story of the same name by Edgar Allan Poe, had its world premiere with the Pit Stop Players at The DiMenna Center for the Arts in NYC, October 30, 2011.
The two subsequent movements, The Raven and A Dream Within a Dream, were premiered by the Pit Stop Players in 2015 and 2016.
A selection of his symphonic compositions has been recorded and released on the CD Colloquy (150Music).