Teachers at the Old Town School

Michael Miles

Banjo, Guitar

Michael Miles is one of America’s most innovative banjo players. With expansive unpredictable repertoire and high-reaching musicality, his work is described by Banjo Newsletter as, “a brilliant tour-de force that effectively obliterates the limits of what was thought possible on clawhammer banjo.” Hailed by Chicago’s legendary WXRT as, “Genius.” The Chicago Sun-Times simply says, “Give the banjo to Michael J. Michaels you’ll hear a mighty soul stirring sound.”

When Pete Seeger heard Michael’s very first recording his response was, “This is enough to make me want to learn to play the banjo all over again.” That was 1990. Over the past 25 years, Michael has created and refined an evocative musical, education, and theatrical voice.

In addition to his work on the banjo, Michael as an MA in Guitar Performance with a particular interest and expertise in fingerstyle. Over the years, he has led classes in Fingerstyle Jazz, Great American Songbook, James Taylor, John Martyn, Richard Thompson, The Beatles, and fingerstyle arranging.

Michael carries his musicianship even further into the theatrical arena. Here he has created over a dozen “musical documentaries for the stage” that combine musical performance with literature, politics, and humor. 2015 offerings include his signature one-man show From Senegal to Seeger and his latest work Way Down the Road.

These shows and Michael’s concerts have been featured at places like the Smithsonian, the Old Town School of Folk Music, Royal Opera Theatre of Marrakesh, Sage Gateshead in the UK, Musical Instrument Museum in Arizona, the Chicago Humanities Festival, and Johnny Keenan Banjo Festival in Ireland. He’s equally at ease in the intimate setting of a house concert or library.

Finally sharing the good fortune of his musical world, Michael is a passionate educator who in the course of any given year leads school assemblies, songwriting residencies, workshops, and classes at festivals. Michael served as Program Director at the Old Town School from 1984 - 1998, bringing the School international acclaim and raising enrollment from 200 students to move than 4000. He was the first ever Artist-In-Residence at the School from 2005 - 2007.

In addition to his work with the Old Town School, Michael is also a teaching artist for the Ravinia Festival and guest professor at Vilanova University and the VanderCook College of Music.

Education: B.A. Oral Interpretation of Literature, University of Illinois, 1976
M.A. Music Performance and Pedagogy, Northeastern Illinois University, 2004
Independent Study: John Moulder, Guitar; Kathy Cowan, Voice.
Additional independent study

Started at the Old Town School in September of 1979

Upcoming Workshops

Clawhammer Banjo Workshop Series with Michael J. Miles: City of New Orleans by Steve Goodman

Intermediate

$25 ($20 members)

Sun. October 11, 1:00 PM – 2:15 PM · Online Classes Available

Fingerstyle Workshop Series: “I Second That Emotion” with Michael J. Miles

Intermediate

$25 ($24 members)

Sun. October 11, 3:00 PM – 4:15 PM · Online Classes Available

Each workshop will concentrate on a single tune. Take them all or choose the ones you want. We’ll approach Smokey Robinson’s classic “I Second That Emotion”

Clawhammer Banjo Workshop Series with Michael J. Miles: 1952 Vincent Black Lightning by Richard Thompson

Intermediate

$25 ($20 members)

Mon. October 12, 6:30 PM – 7:45 PM · Online Classes Available

Fingerstyle Workshop Series: Tapestry by Carole King with Michael J. Miles

Intermediate

$25 ($24 members)

Mon. October 12, 8:00 PM – 9:15 PM · Online Classes Available

Each workshop will concentrate on a single tune. Take them all or choose the ones you want. Carole KIng is truly one of America's greatest songwriters, and this is one of her greatest songs released in 1971 with this modulation that is exquisitely inventive. Give it a try.

Clawhammer Banjo Workshop with Michael J. Miles: Take Five by Paul Desmond

Intermediate

$25 ($20 members)

Mon. October 19, 6:30 PM – 7:45 PM · Online Classes Available

Fingerstyle Workshop Series: Night And Day by Cole Porter with Michael J. Miles

Intermediate

$25 ($24 members)

Mon. October 19, 8:00 PM – 9:15 PM · Online Classes Available

Each workshop will concentrate on a single tune. Take them all or choose the ones you want. Penned in 1932 and sung by all the greats, this song lends itself perfectly to instrumental fingerstyle guitar. Give it a try.


Group Classes for the session beginning 08/31/2020

Blues and Bluegrass for Clawhammer Banjo with Michael Miles

$99 ($79 members)

09/14/2020 – 10/05/2020 (4 meetings)

Mondays · 6:30 PM – 7:50 PM · Online Classes Available

Beatles Fingerstyle Guitar with Michael Miles

$99 ($89 members)

09/14/2020 – 10/12/2020 (4 meetings)

Mondays · 8:00 PM – 9:20 PM · Online Classes Available