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: I Walk The Line by Johnny Cash

Intermediate

$25 ($23 members)

Mon. June 14, 6:30 PM – 7:45 PM · Online

Johnny’s hit song, arranged for clawhammer banjo.

Fingerstyle Workshop Series with Michael J. Miles: Let It Be by Lennon & McCartney (Part 2 of 2)

Intermediate

$25 ($24 members)

Mon. June 14, 8:00 PM – 9:15 PM · Online

This series of workshops include detailed instruction, professional tablature, and audio. Let it Be by Lennon & McCartney a 2 part workshop

Clawhammer Banjo Workshops with Michael J. Miles: Angeline The Baker

Intermediate

$25 ($23 members)

Mon. June 21, 6:30 PM – 7:45 PM · Online

Learn this classic American fiddle tune, originally from Stephen Foster.

Fingerstyle Workshop Series with Michael J. Miles: Sunny by Bobby Hebb

Intermediate

$25 ($23 members)

Mon. June 21, 8:00 PM – 9:20 PM · Online

This series of workshops include detailed instruction, professional tablature, and audio. Sunny a timeless pop tune by Bobby Hebb

Clawhammer Banjo Workshops with Michael J. Miles: Will The Circle Be Unbroken

Intermediate

$25 ($23 members)

Mon. June 28, 6:30 PM – 7:45 PM · Online

This American classic has been recorded by countless artists. Come get Michael’s take on it and learn to make it your own!

Fingerstyle Workshop Series with Michael J. Miles: You Really Got A Hold On Me by Smokey Robinson

Intermediate

$25 ($23 members)

Mon. June 28, 8:00 PM – 9:15 PM · Online

This series of workshops include detailed instruction, professional tablature, and audio. Take on a Smokey Robinson classic “You Really Got A Hold On Me”

Clawhammer Banjo Workshops with Michael J. Miles: Gigue from Cello Suite I by J.S. Bach

Intermediate

$25 ($23 members)

Mon. July 05, 6:30 PM – 7:45 PM · Online

Bach on the banjo? It works very well. Come find out.

Fingerstyle Workshop Series with Michael J. Miles: Revolution by Lennon & McCartney

Intermediate

$25 ($23 members)

Mon. July 12, 8:00 PM – 9:20 PM · Online

This series of workshops include detailed instruction, professional tablature, and audio. From the Beatles’ White album: Revolution


Group Classes for the session beginning 06/21/2021

Arrange Your Own Songs for Clawhammer Banjo with Michael Miles

$99 ($89 members)

07/19/2021 – 08/09/2021 (4 meetings)

Mondays · 6:30 PM – 7:50 PM · Online

Classic Rock & Motown for Fingerstyle Guitar with Michael Miles

The sky is the limit (sort of) with how you can play melodies on fingerstyle guitar and bring yourself into the worlds of songs that might be playing in your inner jukebox.  Bruce Spingstein, Joni Mitchell, Traffic, James Taylor, Smokey Robinson, Temptations. 

$99 ($89 members)

07/19/2021 – 08/09/2021 (4 meetings)

Mondays · 8:00 PM – 9:20 PM · Online