Tell us about music in your childhood.
I remember making up tunes as early as preschool, while hanging upside down from a bar on a swing set in the back yard! Eventually, I joined the school band and then wrote arrangements and compositions for the pep band and concert band, which led me to major in composition in college.
Who is your biggest musical inspiration?
That has varied over time. In high school I could not get enough of Beethoven, but also listened to and played rock songs of the day, because in addition to the piano, I played the drums. Later I fell in love with the music of Ravel and Debussy, and still later with the music of Brahms. The biggest influence on my own compositions (aside from some hybrid of these and other favorite classical composers) are the early 20th century tonal melodists like Sibelius, Rachmaninoff, and Vaughan-Williams, because they had the courage to keep on writing melodies when the rest of their peers had gone to atonal and Modernist styles of music. Of course eventually I became strictly a composer and do not publicly perform on any instrument but write for professional orchestras and chamber musicians to play.
What is your dream venue?
Any venue where great performers are playing my compositions! My music has been played in many wonderful venues — for example, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D. C. and in the big castle on the hill overlooking Prague in the Czech Republic, the Hotel de ville (city hall) in Paris, the Bunka Gykan Hall in Tokyo, and many others, from South America to Europe to Siberia. But I would still like to hear something of mine played by the Chicago Symphony in their Symphony Hall and in New York’s Avery Fischer Hall by the New York Philharmonic.
Are there any instruments you wish you could play?
No, because as a composer I can vicariously play them all without actually having to practice! I’m too lazy to practice and prefer to write music for those who do practice, and I really do appreciate all their work!
Where did you first perform?
When I was about seven, I used my allowance to buy a harmonica that had an instruction book, and I taught myself to play “Red River Valley” and sprang that on my family, to their surprise. My first public performance as a player was as a drummer in the elementary school band and in a little middle school rock group. Then in high school I played percussion in the band, orchestra, and jazz band. In college I played in the pit orchestra for musical theater shows, in jazz groups, and in orchestra. My first composition as a composer was performed by the high school band, a march called “Ants on Parade”.
What is your most embarrassing musical moment?
When I was playing percussion in the school band, I had a solo on a set of five wood blocks on a metal stand about 4 feet high. The screw holding it up at that height was apparently not tightened enough, so that when I played my solo, it gradually sunk lower and lower to about two feet tall, and I bent my knees and sunk along with it, causing the audience to laugh loudly.
Tell us your go-to shower song.
Right now it would be “On the Street Where You Live” from the Broadway show My Fair Lady, because my wife is in rehearsals to play the lead role of Eliza Doolittle in a local production of it. She is a remarkable musical theater performer and has played several lead roles. I go to her every show and love it.
Check out Michael’s website here!