From Bach to Bowie, east coast to west coast, piano keyboards to computer keyboards, Mike Garson has worked to make the world a more creative, compassionate and compelling place. He remains a man of many talents and limitless inspiration. No artistic medium is off-limits to this avant-garde individual to whom the word “no” is quickly transformed into the word “now.”
Best known for his impressive skills as a pianist, he is a respected composer and an evolving computer artist. Embracing the idea of the “Renaissance Man,” Mike continually experiments with new ways through which he can communicate his humanistic ideals and hopes for the world in which he lives.
Celebrating change, Mike inaugurated 2009 by composing “Fanfare for a New Beginning,” a tribute to President Barack Obama, which he performed at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Later in the year Mike was “elected” as the subject of a documentary about his life and musical career – look for it in early 2010!
A multi-faceted musician, in April 2009 Mike produced a CD with Danny Holt, a young classical, modern pianist. In May he will travel to Williamsport, Pennsylvania to perform his own works and debut his “Fanfare” with a 70-piece symphony orchestra and children’s choir. The same work will be performed in July 2009 with a concert band featuring flutist Jim Walker in Ashland, Oregon at the American College of Bands summer program.
On Labor Day weekend 2009, Mike will perform at the famed Tanglewood Jazz Festival in Massachusetts with vocalists Nnenna Freelon and Harolyn Blackwell. Mike previously performed with this talented pair in November 2008 when he was the musical director, arranger and pianist for a tribute to Duke Ellington entitled “Dreaming the Duke” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Featuring a jazz sextet and string quartet, this project seamlessly fused classical and Jazz, an accomplishment about which Duke Ellington would have been proud!
In early 2008, Mike released two CDS: “Conversations with my Family” on Resonance Records and “Jazz Hat” on Reference Recordings. “Conversations with my Family” earned a rating of 4 1/2 stars out of a possible 5 stars in Downbeat Magazine and “Jazz Hat” was equally as well received. Mike was also commissioned to compose and perform a work entitled “Our Daughters” for the opening of a new Performance Pavilion in Steamboat Springs, Colorado in July, 2008.
A philosopher at heart, Mike’s music reflects the often-arduous world in which he lives while communicating hope for an improved existence. In response to the tragic events of September 11, 2001, he composed a moving piece entitled “Prayer for New York.” To commemorate the arrival of a new century – and a new millennium – Mike composed “Requiem for the 20th Century.”
1999 saw the release of the MGM film “Stigmata” for which Mike co-composed the score with Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins. Among their collaborations was the haunting hit “Identify,” which was performed by Natalie Imbruglia. Mike also performed with the Pumpkins during their 1998 Adore tour and their final concerts in 2000.
Mike is perhaps best known for his relationship with David Bowie, which began after he played only eight bars for Mick Ronson in late 1971. He was then asked to join David Bowie’s first North American tour and the rest is history. In the nearly than 40 years since, Mike has made his mark on numerous Bowie albums and has traveled thousands of miles on Bowie tours, including his 2003-2004 “A Reality Tour,” Bowie’s first world tour in 20 years. On November 17th 2006 Mike accompanied Bowie and Alisha Keys during a unique performance of “Changes” at an AIDS benefit in New York City.
“It is pointless to talk about his ability as a pianist. He is exceptional. However, there are very, very few musicians, let alone pianists, who naturally understand the movement and free thinking necessary to hurl themselves into experimental or traditional areas of music, sometimes, ironically, at the same time. Mike does this with such enthusiasm that it makes my heart glad just to be in the same room with him,” said Bowie about his relationship with Mike.
Mike’s solid reputation for creativity and quality has motivated many other musicians to invite him to record on their albums. Trent Reznor – whom Mike first met during David Bowie’s 1996 “Outside” tour – featured Mike on several tracks of Nine Inch Nails’ “The Fragile.” Mike can also be heard on Seal’s “Human Being” as well as a bonus track at the end of No Doubt’s “Return of Saturn” album.
From 1982 until 2004, Mike was a member of Free Flight, a jazz and classical ensemble featuring renowned flutist Jim Walker. In addition to serving as the group’s pianist, Mike composed most of their music. Free Flight appeared four times on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and performed a concerto with the L.A. Philharmonic.
In his youth, Mike studied classical composition with Leonard Eisner of Juilliard and earned degrees in Music and Education from Brooklyn College. He also studied with Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Hal Overton, Robert Starer and Lennie Tristano. He has played with Stanley Clarke, Elvin Jones, Lee Konitz, Stan Getz and Freddie Hubbard.
A lifelong learner, Mike has taught students at master classes and through private instruction. Mike has appeared at universities around the world where he has both guest lectured and performed for numerous music students and public audiences. A few years ago masters and doctorate-level music students at the University of Southern California taking a course with DR. Dennis Thurmond in 20th century classical music were required to perform one of Mike’s classical pieces. He has also authored seven musical instruction books published by Warner Brothers and Alfred Publishing Company.
Embracing the idea of creative, spiritual and professional growth, Mike continues to explore new avenues through which he can use his multifaceted talents to provide healing, enjoyment and inspiration to people. To date, Mike has composed over 4000 pieces of music and touched countless people with his motivational music. According to Mike:
“If I am truly passionate about and love what I do, I believe that feeling can be transmitted to and inspire the people who receive my art.”