Latest Press

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2019 personal letter of congratulations to Michael.  Click here!

"Miles is Chicago's best kept secret...one of the leading lights of contemporary instrumental music." 
- Midwest Record

Newsletter

Representation

Michael is represented by

Siegel Artist Management

(570) 258-5700

ExistentialBanjo.com

10 LIVE VIDEO CLIPS with some of the world's greatest musicians--Darol Anger on violin, Corky Siegel on harmonica, Erkan Ogur of Turkey and many more. 

CLICK HERE

EXISTENTIALBANJO.COM

New Releases

A-sides CD

Fingerstyle guitar with Darol Anger on violin 

 

Two New Hal Leonard books

BOB DYLAN FOR BANJO

 

FIRST 50 SONGS
To Play on the Banjo 
(co-written with Greg Cahill)

 

CD's On Sale

 

 

 

This is the most soulful of all the banjos.   It was built by Jim Hartel (minstrelbanjo.com) and it is an exact replica of the Ashborne banjo from 1855.   In it's day, the Ashborne was known as the "steinway of the banjo world."   Of all the banjos that he has built, Jim Hartel told me that this one was the best--and he doesn't say that everyone.  Enjoy! 

 

In this video, that I just put up on you tube, I demonstrate this amazing instrument, The Hajuj.  It was built for me in Morocco by Zine Abedine.   He is one of the premier builders and players of the hajuj.  It is the central instrument in Gnawa music ensembles that play what is sometimes described as trance music.   It is a sacred tradition of the Berber culture.  In Gnawa music there is much singing and percussion as well accompanying the groove of the Hajuj.  

What is most amazing is that the right hand technique for playing the hajuj, closely resembles the right hand technique for clawhammer banjo.  The difference is that the Hajuj is at least 600 years old, and the banjo only registers, as a 5-string instrument, in the 170-year-old range.    So for that reason, the Hajuj (as a drum with strings) is one of the grand elder statesmen of the banjo world.  

But this fact and this instrument are largely unknown in the banjo world.  Enjoy.  

Here is a new video, produced by Garry Grasinski at Grayson Media Inc.  I'm excited to share my new Deering Goodtime Fretless banjo using their newest pickup system.   I have it plugged into a Fishman Loudbox amp.  The banjo is tuned ADGCD, which lends itself quite well to playing blues in the key of D.  More videos to come!

The Sundial Suite is a three movement work for banjo and chamber orchestra.  There are three movements:   Rondeau, Rhapsody, and Rumba.   The work is orchestrated by my good friend, Ron DeGrandis.   The debut performance will feature the Niles West High School Orchestra under the direction of Steve Katz.  

There will be a live radio preview on Dec 6 at 3pm, broadcast live on WFMT 98.7fm in Chicago and streamed online at WFMT.org.  The live performance will be on Dec 13 at 7pm at the Niles West High School.  Tickets are free.  

Read more on the WFMT blog.   

Just this month, the Newberry Consort with whom I've begun performing, presented "Beautiful Dreamer:  The Music of Abraham Lincoln's America.  Newberry Consort inlcudes Ellen Hargis--soprano, David Douglass--violin, David Schrader--piano, Paul Hecht--actor, and I joined them with banjo, guitar and vocals.  We were featured on WFMT as part of this Impromptu Series and then performed at the Madison Early Music Festival.  The photo on left is a rehearsal shot in Madison; the photo on right is at the WFMT studio.  Here's a review of our show....

MM & Ella Jenkins

This month marks the 100th anniversary of Woody Guthrie's birth, with celebrations all over the country of people coming out to share his great music and his great ideas.   Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago had a great evening that featured founder Frank Hamilton who learned to play harmonica from Woody, as well as the legendary children's performer Ella Jenkins.  I'm happy to say that I'm friends with both of them, and we caught this picture on that evening.  Ella also like to play the harmonica, and we were able to run off a good version of the Cuckoo back stage at one point.   And Frank Hamilton shared the fact that Woody suggested that when you play blues on the harmonica, that you hold it upside down with the low notes on the right instead of the left.  I never heard that before.    

When it was my turn I drew a connection between Woody Guthrie and Walt Whitman.....  

Here are my two grandchildren, Dylan aged 3 and Penelope Jane at 7 months having their first jam session.   Notice that both are playing with no written music, and doing their very best to make eye contact and listen closely to one another.   The future of the world of music in our household is rising here!  

Class Picture

I spent this week with an amazing collection of 12 professional music teachers at Villanova University, teaching a class entitled American Folk Instruments and History.   It ran from 8am to 4:30pm for five straight days.  To take the class, the students needed to know how to play the guitar--with that I taught them more on the guitar as well as how to play banjo, mandolin, ukulele, and harmonica.   We explored these American instruments and their contexts in history by looking at the Labor Movement, Civil Rights, the 1930's and the Viet Nam War. We also saw videos of my students in Beirut and Chicago, and videos of classic artists like John Lee Hooker, Sippie Wallace, Junior Wells, Pete Seeger, and others.    Special thanks is due to the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago for making the instruments available and to the Deering Banjo Company for ensuring that these amazing musicians had excellent instruments for their very first banjo experiences.   

The 'Pich' is a Mexican black bird whose song resembles the first three notes of "On A Clear Day."  Enjoy!

  

We spent two weeks in Cambria, California.  Here's the weather forecast and what it looked like.   

cambria silouhette  

RSS feed