Michael, born and raised on the south side of Chicago, has been in music practically his entire life. He started playing piano before his feet could reach the pedals.
Although Michael has worked with over 470 artists in his career thus far, he is best known as Michael Jackson‘s final music director. Also, Michael has been creating with Lady Gaga as her MD since 2013.
Michael was nominated by the Television Academy for the 69th Emmy Awards in the ‘Outstanding Music Direction‘ category for the Pepsi Halftime Superbowl LI performance featuring Lady Gaga. It was the most watched Super Bowl halftime performance in history!
Immediately after the Super Bowl, Gaga asked Michael to help create ALL of her forthcoming events. Those included, Coachella, (Gaga was subbing for a pregnant Beyonce’), a Tudor watch campaign, (directed by Mark Romanek) The American Music Awards, The Grammys and the highly successful Joanne World Tour. Michael also performed in the newly released film ‘A Star Is Born’, with Bradley Cooper. The successful Cooper directed reboot of the classic film starring Lady Gaga.
Michael recently, Michael lead an all star country music tribute to Ray Charles at the world famous Grand Ole Opry in Nashville Tennessee.
Also, Michael was the music director for a Hocus Pocus Halloween special airing on the ABC Networks in October 2018. Executive produced by Kenny Ortega and Michael Levitt.
In 2017, Michael helped recreate over 30 Motown songs for use in the new, upcoming Netflix animated series entitled, ‘Motown Magic’. Michael impressed the producers so much, they asked him to be a recurring character (Doc Ellington) in the series.
Michael performed in the Orchestra at the 89th Oscars. And will do so again for the 90th Oscars, his third year in a row. It again features host Jimmy Kimmel, who Michael had worked with at the Emmys.
In Michael’s arsenal of strong skill sets is the ability to lead and direct music for “live” television. A valuable skill not too many music directors share. Michael has conducted and co-md’d the 68th primetime Emmy Awards on ABC. A position he has held for multiple Emmys broadcasts since 2009. Jimmy Kimmel was the host for the evening.
In June of 2016, Michael was the music director for the Kennedy Center‘s annual spring gala honoring the great Marvin Gaye. The event was hosted by Whoopie Goldberg and featured artists such as, Mary Wilson of the Supremes, Andra Day, Leslie Odom Jr. from the broadway smash Hamilton, Jussie Smollett from tv hit show Empire, Motown legend Valerie Simpson, new comer BJ The Chicago Kid, Baby Face, and vocalist extraordinaire Ledisi. The evening was a resounding success!
Michael MD’ed the Many Rivers Festival just outside of Atlanta. A debut, 2 day social justice & arts festival launched by legendary icon Harry Belafonte. Michael was handpicked by Mr. Belafonte to head the final night main stage event. It featured artists such as John Legend, Common, Alice Smith, Aloe Blacc, Siedah Garrett, Maxwell, Goapele, Mali Music and more.
Earlier in 2016, Michael played keyboards, arranged and assisted conducting for the 88th Oscars hosted by Chris Rock.
December 2015, Michael was the Music Director & Music Producer for Empire stars, Taraji and Terrrence’s ‘White Hot Holidays’ special for the FOX Network.
That same year, the Maestro also conducted and was co-music director for the 2015 67th Primetime Emmy Awards.
Michael composed for and conducted a 40+ piece orchestra at the request of Amazon‘s Jeff Bezos, for a private event in Palm Springs. It featured over 100 drones from Intel choreographed to the orchestra. The event was a resounding success and impressed the Amazon founder who commissioned Michael’s works.
In the summer, Michael volunteered his time at Ne-Yo‘s ‘Compound Foundation Academy Boot Camp‘, helping to enrich the lives of foster kids interested in the music business.
Michael was music director and conductor for the first annual 2015 ‘Lincoln Awards‘ at the Kennedy Center, honoring our nations veterans and their families.
Michael can be seen performing on the recently released AXS TV concert, ‘One More For The Fans’, celebrating the music of the iconic band Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Michael performed in the main house band at the 2015 MusiCares event honoring the legendary Bob Dylan. Some of the artists included, Willie Nelson, Alanis Morissette, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Jones, and Emmy Lou Harris, just to name a few.
Michael also performed at the 2018 MusiCares celebration of Fleetwood Mac at Radio City in NYC. The show featured many artists including; Mylie Cyrus, Little Big Town, Haim, Lourde, Alison Krause, Keith Urban and more.
Michael contributed his talents to the 2013 MusiCares tribute of Bruce Springsteen. Some of that shows artists include, John Legend, Neil Young, Mumford & Sons, Jackson Browne, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Juanes,Tom Morello, Mavis Staples, Zack Brown, Patti Smith, etc… and Bruce himself. The concert can be seen in it’s entirety on HD Net.
Michael arranged, conducted and co – produced five songs with full orchestra for the one and only Neil Young on Neil’s studio recording ‘Storeytone‘. The album was recorded live in complete performance by the great Al Schmitt at the Sony Soundstage. When Michael left the podium, his part of the record was complete! No mixing required!
Michael was co – music director and conducted the 66th Prime Time Emmy Awards on NBC. The telecast had it’s highest ratings in several years!
Michael was music director and conductor for The Songwriters Hall Of Fame 2014. The NYC gala had been annually produced by the late great multiple Grammy Award winner Phil Ramone. Michael was often a favorite of Phil’s for use in his various productions.
In 2013, as mentioned above, Lady Gaga asked Michael to become her music director. Among his first assignments were MTV’s 2013 VMA’s at The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, iTunes Festival in London, You Tube festival and Saturday Night Live in New York City, The Voice in Los Angeles, SXSW in Austin Texas, and a run of seven sold out shows at New York’s famous Roseland Ballroom to name just a few. Her shows would be the final shows ever at the prestigious venue. He, along with Lady Gaga and Richy Jackson, co – created and provided musical direction for her sold out world tour artRAVE The ARTPOP Ball, performing to monster audiences all around the world.
Michael was music director for the red carpet event and premiere of Universal Pictures Fast & Furious 6. Michael helped organized the show at the request of President of film, music and publishing at Universal Mike Knobloch, featured Wiz Khalifa, Two Chains and Ludacris. The concert was held at Universal City Walk in Los Angeles.
Michael has been involved in countless record productions. Including recently executive producing a new effort entitled ‘Legend‘ from hip hop pioneer, MC Lyte; producing a record for the China Voice winner Bo Liang; produced and co-wrote on a new project featuring guitarists Orianthi and Richie Sambora; and overseeing an upcoming conscious/uplift humanity project with involvement from legendary rapper Talib Kweli and writer/activist Kevin Powell. Also, he has been working on several new productions for up and coming artists.
Michael was asked by Dwayne Wade’s ‘Wayne’s World’ foundation to be it’s ambassador of music for the Chicago based charity organization. Michael’s home town.
Michael was the music director/producer on the CW Network show Oh Sit! The show aired for 10 weeks starting April 15, 2013.
Michael was also the music director and conductor for Lady Gaga’s appearance at the President’s Official Ball during Barack Obama’s inauguration of 2013. Michael and the first lady (Michelle Obama) have been friends since childhood so it was a natural fit. Especially, having performed at President Obama’s very first inauguration concert ‘We Are One’ on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Both events were historic and resounding successes!
In demand, Michael was asked by well renowned producer Don Was, (Phil Ramone recommended Michael to Don because he thought the combination would be great) to work on an event in New Orleans. It was a surprise birthday party for Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The concert included legends Dr. John, Chrissy Hynde, Greg Allman and Joe Walsh. Michael has worked with Don on many live event concerts since then. Including an upcoming tribute to Willie Nelson shooting in late 2015.
Also, Michael can be seen as the music director, pianist and conductor on a Ken Ehrlich/ AEG produced PBS special for new talent Chris Mann. The CCO / EVP of Virgin Records Ron Fair asked Michael to help put the show together which he did. Michael delivered, with only a limited amount of time to do so. It’s received rave reviews.
In December of 2012 Michael performed as principal keyboardist and contributing MD at the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors in tribute to Legends Buddy Guy and Led Zeppelin. And, in 2013 in tribute to Billy Joel, Carlos Santana and his mentor Herbie Hancock. Michael has held this position for 12 annual Honors Telecasts, 2002-2014.
In fall of 2012, Michael was the co-music director and conductor for the 64th Prime Time Emmy awards.
Michael served the full run as Music Director and music producer for George Lopez’s Lopez Tonight on TBS nightly.
Michael was Music Director, Supervisor, Composer and Associate Producer of the Sony film This Is It about Michael Jackson’s final tour rehearsals.
Michael has performed and/or recorded with many of popular musics giants such as: Sting, Carlos Santana, Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, Chaka Kahn, Patti Austin, James Ingrahm, Patti Labelle, George Benson, Yossou NDour, Boz Scaggs, Lenny Kravitz, Luther Vandross, Roberta Flack, Issac Hayes, Aaron Neville, MC Lyte, Cyndi Lauper, and legends Nancy Wilson, Queen, David Crosby, Stevie Wonder, John Fogerty, Liza Minelli, Neil Young, Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and music director for many including Madonna, Rod Stewart and the greatest ever, Michael Jackson! Just to name a few.
His diverse musical skills have also been sought by a later generation of artists including: Christina Aguilera, Ricky Martin, Destinys Child, Brandy, India Arie, Fantasia, Chrisette Michele, Ashanti, John Mayer, Faith Evans, Brian McKnight, Anastacia, Natasha Bedingfield, Nelly Furtado, Mya, Joss Stone, Usher, Keisha Cole, Angie Stone and served as music director for Jennifer Lopez, Mary J Blige, Lady Gaga, D’Angelo, among others.
He has also written, produced, and performed with such notable jazz artists as: Rachelle Ferrell, Herbie Mann, Terrance Blanchard, Marcus Miller, Everette Harp, Will Downing, Nelson Rangell, Marion Meadows, Regina Carter, Noel Pointer, Special EFX, Pieces Of A Dream, Jonathan Butler, Quincy Jones, performed and collaborated with his childhood hero and mentor Herbie Hancock on on Hancock’s Grammy-nominated album Possibilities.
An accomplished composer, Michael’s feature film scores include, as stated earlier, Sony Pictures 2009 Film/Doc about Michael Jackson’s final rehearsals This Is It, Drop Squad produced by Spike Lee (starring Eriq Lasalle and Ving Rhames) and the indie film The Visit directed by Jordan Walker Pearlman (starring Rae Dawn Chong and Billy Dee Williams). Michael scored several debut indie features, April Apocalypse, for filmmakers The Tarnol Brothers, and One Week for director Carl Seaton. In addition, Michael scored the feature Constellation (starring Gabrielle Union, Leslie Ann Warren and Billy Dee Williams) as well as the feature film/doc America The Beautiful and Sundance film/doc American Blackout. He will be scoring two feature films in 2019, actor Michael Jai White’s, The Outlaw Johnny Black and a Viola Davis produced film Hanging By A Thread. Both are now in preproduction.
Michael held the principal pianist/keyboard position on two Cosby television show bands. He was frequently contracted by bandleader Paul Shaffer (Late Show with David Letterman) as the lead substitute for the CBS broadcast. Michael has performed as a pianist and/or conductor on countless major television specials, talk shows and award shows, including The Academy Awards! best know as The Oscars. He also served as principal keyboardist on many feature films. Including popular films by director John Singelton entitled Four Brothers, Shaft, and Baby Boy.
Michael served multiple years on the Board Of Governors and Trustees of The Recording Academy LA Chapter.
Michael is also currently serving as Global Goodwill Ambassador for The United Nations.
The Recording Academy (Board Of Trustees Los Angeles Chapter)
The United Nations (Global Goodwill Ambassador)
Yes We Code
#Cut50.org (for prison reform)
Little Kids Rock
Compound Foundation Music Academy Boot Camp
Education Through Music LA
Manna Food Bank
Hope Valley Mission
American Federation Of Musicians Local 47
MDG Commitee – United Nations
The Jack Brewer Foundation
Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia
Howard University Alumni