About Michael J. Miles


• Composer

• Performing Artist

• Musical Playwright

• Educator

When Pete Seeger first heard Michael Miles, he sent a letter to Michael saying that "in all my 70 years this is among the most beautiful recordings I’ve ever is enough to make me want to learn the banjo all over again.”

Michael Miles is one of America’s most inventive clawhammer banjo players.   Add guitar, vocals, jazz instruments, orchestras and complex historically-themed theatrical presentations to the mix and, two decades later, Michael has a critically acclaimed catalog of original compositions, stage performances, music CD’s and music instruction books.

Michael Miles performance credits include the Kennedy Center, Smithsonian Institution, Ravinia Festival, Harris Theatre in Chicago, American University in Beirut, and the Royal Opera Theatre in Marrakesh.

From 1984-1998, Michael served as the Program Director at the Old Town School of Folk Music bringing the school to international acclaim.   Under his guidance the student population grew from 200 students to over 4000.  From 2005-2007, Michael was honored as the school's first ever Artist-In-Residence. He remains as active member of the faculty teaching clawhammer banjo and fingerstyle guitar.  

With an MA in Music Performance and Pedagogy, Michael is also a music educator whose work ranges from introducing kindergarten students to their earliest musical experiences to leading postgraduate study for professional musicians and music teachers.

Current projects include the 2015 release of two new banjo books published by Hal Leonard:  Pete Seeger Play-along CD followed by the Music of Bob Dylan. Across the year, Michael will open the Existential Banjo, a youtube channel featuring performance, education & commentary; record and produce Someone To Watch Over Me, a fingerstyle guitar CD with renderings of American composers including George Gershwin, Laura Nyro and Stevie Wonder; and continue live concert collaborations with the Chicago Arts Orchestra, honored as the 2014 Professional Orchestra of the Year in Illinois.



Michael J. Miles
Musician, Composer, Performing Artist,
Musical Playwright, Educator

Michael J. Miles is a master banjoist, guitarist, orchestral composer, author of numerous theatrical works combining music and history, and acclaimed music educator.

Michael's now-international performance career began with his first musical love, the banjo.

Widely regarded as one of America’s most inventive and accomplished clawhammer banjo players, Michael's earliest recording -- Counterpoint -- was described by Pete Seeger as “the most beautiful I’ve heard...”

Building upon the critical success of that first CD, Michael went on to record New Century Suite, The Magic Banjo and American Bach -- the latter a unique exploration of the works of Bach performed on banjo.

 "His performance of the two Bach suites exceeds by an order of magnitude any music ever performed by anyone on clawhammer banjo.... This is a brilliant tour-de fore that effectively obliterates the limits of what was thought possible on clawhammer banjo."   

     Tim Jumper, May 2013, Banjo Newsletter

Over the past 25 years Michael has broadened the scope of his performance repertoire to include everything from stunning solo performances using primitive African instruments that are the forerunners of the banjo to full scale orchestral performances of original compositions combining string quartet, vibes, flugelhorn, trumpet, percussion, and voices with classical music, blues, jazz, show tunes and folk song influences.

Of particular note are Michael's “American Journeys” -- musical documentaries for the stage that combine live music with politics, literature, humor, popular culture and projected imagery of art and historical photography.

Michael is a well recognized music educator. He is a teaching artist for the Ravinia Festival and the Old Town School of Folk Music and a guest graduate school professor for professional music educators at Villanova University, VanderCook College of Music and West Chester University.

Michael is actively involved with the Global Voices Initiative -- a vehicle for enabling musical collaborations by students around the world -- and has twice been endorsed by the United States State Department to serve as a musical ambassador, most recently to Lebanon in 2011.

He is also the author of
Teach Yourself How To Play Clawhammer Banjo, a perennial banjo instruction favorite since its original publication in 1984.  In 2014, Hal Leonard Publications will release his newest work, "American Folk Songs for Clawhammer Banjo." 

Michael plays his composition, "Chicago Trilogy."

Michael plays the When Things Go Wrong on the
fretless banjo.  This is a classic blues tune from the playing of Chicago's Big Bill Broonzy. 

Michael plays his composition, "Melodious Pich," accompanied by vibes, percussion, & fluglehorn.

Michael plays JS Bach's "Sleepers Awake" with vibes playing harmony, rich bass line, and exquisite vocals.