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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 Workshops with Michael J. Miles: City of New Orleans by Steve Goodman

Intermediate

$25 ($23 members)

Mon. September 20, 6:30 PM – 7:45 PM · Online

Best train song ever written and it belongs on the banjo.

Fingerstyle Workshop Series with Michael J. Miles: Hesitation Blues as arranged by Jorma Kaukonen

Intermediate

$25 ($23 members)

Mon. September 20, 8:00 PM – 9:15 PM · Online

Jorma put his thumbprint on America with his great guitar work.

Clawhammer Banjo Workshops with Michael J. Miles: Kodachrome by Paul Simon

Intermediate

$25 ($23 members)

Mon. October 11, 6:30 PM – 7:45 PM · Online

Paul Simon has deep folk roots that turn a friendly ear to the banjo.

Fingerstyle Workshop Series with Michael J. Miles: Moondance by Van Morrison

Intermediate

$25 ($23 members)

Mon. October 11, 8:00 PM – 9:15 PM · Online

Classic guitar vamp that you may know already, but we put the melody line right on top and it sizzles!

Clawhammer Banjo Workshops with Michael J. Miles: Your Cheatin' Heart by Hank Williams

Intermediate

$25 ($23 members)

Mon. October 18, 6:30 PM – 7:45 PM · Online

Can't go wrong with Hank who wrote this song in his Cadillac with wife #2 about wife #1.

Fingerstyle Workshop Series with Michael J. Miles: Autumn Leaves by Joseph Kosma

Intermediate

$25 ($23 members)

Mon. October 18, 8:00 PM – 9:15 PM · Online

This elegant song wants to be played in October-November.

Fingerstyle Workshop Series with Michael J. Miles: The Way You Look Tonight by Jerome Kern & Dorothy Fields

Intermediate

$25 ($23 members)

Mon. November 15, 8:00 PM – 9:15 PM · Online

Frank Sinatra and many others sang it, but wait till you hear it on your guitar.

Fingerstyle Workshop Series with Michael J. Miles: My Girl by Smokey Robinson (recorded by The Temptations)

Intermediate

$25 ($23 members)

Mon. November 29, 8:00 PM – 9:15 PM · Online

The classic bassline runs below with the Smokey melody up above. One of the best!

Fingerstyle Workshop Series with Michael J. Miles: Silent Night by Franz X. Gruber

Intermediate

$25 ($23 members)

Mon. December 06, 8:00 PM – 9:15 PM · Online

Story goes that it was originally played on the guitar, where it belongs.

Fingerstyle Workshop Series with Michael J. Miles: Christmas Time is Here by Vince Guaraldi

Intermediate

$25 ($23 members)

Mon. December 13, 8:00 PM – 9:15 PM · Online

Charlie Brown helps us survive the seasons.


Group Classes for the session beginning 10/25/2021

Classic Country Clawhammer with Michael Miles

$99 ($79 members)

10/25/2021 – 11/15/2021 (4 meetings)

Mondays · 6:30 PM – 7:50 PM · Online

Beatles Fingerstyle with Michael Miles

$99 ($89 members)

10/25/2021 – 11/15/2021 (4 meetings)

Mondays · 8:00 PM – 9:20 PM · Online