Photo by Theresa Hammons
Little did seven-year old Michael know that learning how to read music notes out of an encyclopedia, driven by the desire to play simple melodies on a plastic recorder, would launch the course of his life. His drive to learn music took him through fifth grade band to completing his masters in Conducting at WWU. Michael has passionately treated music like an explorer, to understand what created music and how to create music.
The saxophone has been the vessel that Michael has used to carve this musical path. He has played several genres, which started with jazz. While at WWU, he studied classical saxophone with Dr. Julia Nolan, whose performances still serve as an inspiration to him. For a short-time following University, Michael would perform classically, including: Telemann’s Viola Concerto in G at Vancouver’s First Baptist Church along with several other works. Michael’s taste spans a thousand years of music history and believes that music asks questions. Ideas swirl around his mind inspiring him to play Paul Desmond, Claude Debussy and Neil Young with equal vigor.
Michael believes that music happens in the context of culture. He found that conducting is a wonderful way to connect with people musically. Therefore, after completing a degree in composition and performance, he returned to his educational roots and studied conducting with the distinguished Dr. Lesley Guelker-Cone. Through her tough love and passion for music students she challenged Michael to create music with grit, integrity and care. She herself displays these qualities with the utmost passion in her own conducting. LGC passed her fire on to Michael and he is committed to giving every musician the best possible opportunity to perform with skill and heart. No matter if the ensemble is a jazz quartet or full choir, he always challenges his musicians to bring out their best. Because of this, he never stops learning for himself and continues to study saxophone with Mike Allen.
Michael enjoys playing saxophone and leading Nuages, a Gypsy jazz quartet, founded to explore the idea of Django Reinhardt in the 21st century. Michael guest performs with several groups from Seattle to Vancouver and produces the Manouche N.W. concert series. In addition, he teaches music and art at St. Paul’s Academy and leads an all woman’s jazz choir, the Whatcom Sound Jazz Singers. He also loves cooking, craft beer, a good television series, hiking, traveling, minimalist living, his friends and, most importantly, spending time with his wife.