Classical and Jazz Piano, Composition
Michael completed his BMus in composition from the University of Colorado, followed by Master’s degrees in both Jazz Studies and Composition at New England Conservatory. He is now a faculty member at NEC in the Division of Continuing Education, as well as at Milton Academy, Powers Music School in Belmont, and the Community Music Center of Boston. Michael believes that a piano foundation in the European piano technique is a springboard for playing piano in any musical tradition.
Michael has performed and toured with many leading groups in the Boston and New England area, including the Either Orchestra (in Boston and at the Portsmouth, Toronto and Ottawa Jazz Festivals), the Artie Shaw Orchestra (at Worcester Centrum, and tours through the U.S. Seaboard and the Midwestern States), the Winiker Swing Orchestra, White Heat Swing Orchestra, and many others.
He also composes, directs, and performs as a pianist with his own group, Michael Shea Quintet, with performances on WGBH radio and in many Boston area clubs including the Willow Jazz Club, the Parker House, and the Regattabar at the Charles Hotel, Cambridge; plus concert tours through upstate New York, and New York City.
- How/what age did you start your instrument?
My father taught me both parts to Chopsticks and a few other simple duets when I was four years old.
- Did you come from a musical family?
My uncle was a professional musician, performing with big bands and with his own piano, guitar, and bass trio. My mother sang and harmonized with us and my father played piano – intermediate classical pieces and stride tunes for his own enjoyment. I enjoyed it too.
- Best, funniest or worst musical memory from childhood?
In my last year of high school, I was invited to play cello in the school’s tiny orchestra. I had never played the cello and spent two months on a crash course of practicing in order to be ready. I began rehearsing (badly) with them when we came back from winter break. There was only one other cellist in the orchestra and she was absent for the first two weeks of rehearsals. When I asked the director about her, he told me she’d graduated early and that I was now the principal cellist for the rest of the year. Oddly enough, I stayed. Haydn will never forgive me.
- A highlight or two from your performing career:
Listening to performances of music I’ve written has always been an amazing feeling for me. Chamber music, the few orchestra pieces I’ve managed to get played, and jazz pieces performed – with and without my piano – have been great experiences.
The many times I’ve met and played with older, excellent jazz musicians have confirmed the art for me – everything was about the music, the camaraderie, the craftsmanship, and avid anticipation of what will happen next.
- What do you love about teaching?
The people. I enjoy learning about how different people learn, how they figure things out, and make sense of new information. I enjoy finding out what music touches them and attracts them. And, I really enjoy hearing students make the music their own, speaking fluently through their instrument.
- What would you like your students to know about you?
I’m a friendly person and I expect their attention and focus on our lessons – there’s lot’s to do. I’d like my students to play every day, practicing the lesson, learning and polishing their pieces, and making up some music on their own. Most of all, I want my students to listen to music – of all kinds.
- Can you share a non-musical fun fact about you?
I swim like a sleepy otter and I enjoy hiking the woods.