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Biography of

Michael Daugherty

1954 (Cedar Rapids) -
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Michael Kevin Daugherty (born April 28, 1954) is an American composer, pianist, and teacher. Influenced by popular culture, Romanticism, and Postmodernism, Daugherty is one of the most colorful and widely performed American concert music composers of his generation. Daugherty's notable works include his Superman comic book-inspired Metropolis Symphony for Orchestra (1988–93), Dead Elvis for Solo Bassoon and Chamber Ensemble (1993), Jackie O (1997), Niagara Falls for Symphonic Band (1997), UFO for Solo Percussion and Orchestra (1999) and for Symphonic Band (2000), Bells for Stokowski from Philadelphia Stories for Orchestra (2001) and for Symphonic Band (2002), Fire and Blood for Solo Violin and Orchestra (2003) inspired by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Time Machine for Three Conductors and Orchestra (2003), Ghost Ranch for Orchestra (2005), and Deus Ex Machina for Piano and Orchestra (2007). Daugherty has been described by The Times (London) as "a master icon maker" with a "maverick imagination, fearless structural sense and meticulous ear."[1]

Currently, Daugherty is Professor of Composition at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since 2003, his music has been published by Boosey & Hawkes and prior to then by Peermusic Classical.



Early years

Daugherty sons: (L-to-R) Tom, Pat, Michael, Tim, and Matt, 1973

Michael Daugherty was born into a musical family on April 28, 1954 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His father Willis Daugherty (b.1929) was a jazz and Country and western drummer, his mother Evelyn Daugherty (1927–1974) was an amateur singer, and his grandmother Josephine Daugherty (1907–1991) was a pianist for silent film. Daugherty’s four younger brothers are all professional musicians: Pat Daugherty (b. 1956), Tim Daugherty (b. 1958), Matt Daugherty (b. 1960), and Tom Daugherty (b. 1961).

The centerpieces of the modest Daugherty home, located at 1547 5th Avenue S.E. in Cedar Rapids, were a player piano, television, and record player. At the age of 8, Daugherty taught himself how to play piano by pumping the pedals of the player piano and watching how piano keys moved to Tin Pan Alley tunes such as Alexander’s Ragtime Band. Music was a significant activity in the Daugherty family, especially during the holidays when relatives would participate in jam sessions of popular songs like Misty and Sentimental Journey. Additionally, the Daugherty family would frequently gather around the television in the evening to watch popular variety hours such as The Ed Sullivan Show, The Jackie Gleason Show, and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. The record collection at the Daugherty home consisted mainly of 'easy listening music' of the fifties and music from Broadway theatre.

During his developmental years, Daugherty's mother encouraged him to paint, draw cartoons, tap dance, and play basketball and his father and uncle Danny Nicol taught him how to play rock and jazz drums. From 1963-67 Daugherty played bass drum in the Emerald Knights and tom-toms in Grenadier Drum and Bugle Corps where he competed against other Drum and Bugle Corps throughout small Midwestern towns. During these years, Daugherty was employed as an early morning paper boy for The Des Moines Register and delivered papers across his neighborhood and to Mercy Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Traveling was an important pastime for the Daugherty family. They often took long summer road trips down two-lane highways to tourist locations, including Mount Rushmore, Niagara Falls and Miami Beach, Florida. In 1964, the entire Daugherty family took a two-week vacation to London, England where The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix were at the height of their fame and Carnaby Street was the cutting edge of pop culture and fashion - this was in the heart of the Swinging Sixties.

The sixties in America were a time of great political unrest and social change. This made a great impact on the teenage Daugherty; Civil Rights demonstrations for racial equality and integration and demonstrations against the Vietnam War were becoming common day occurrences in Iowa, especially at the nearby University of Iowa, in Iowa City.

From 1968-72, Daugherty was the leader, arranger, and organist for his high school rock, soul, and funk band "The Soul Company". This band performed a variety of Motown charts and music by James Brown, Blood Sweat & Tears, and Sky and the Family Stone. Because accessing sheet music was almost impossible, Daugherty learned to hand-transcribe the music by listening to vinyl recordings. With the help of his father, who drove the band across the state, "The Soul Company" became a locally popular group that performed at high school proms, dances, and other events.

During the same years, Daugherty was a piano accompanist for the Washington High School Concert Choir, a solo jazz piano performer in nightclubs and lounges, and he appeared on local television as the pianist for the country and western Dale Thomas Show. Daugherty interviewed jazz artists who performed in Iowa, including Buddy Rich, Stan Kenton, George Shearing, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and he wrote articles on their music for the high school newspaper. During the summers of 1972-77, Daugherty played Hammond organ at county fairs across the Midwest for various popular music stars such as Bobby Vinton, Boots Randolph, Pee Wee King, and members of The Lawrence Welk Show.

Education in America and Europe

Daugherty studied music composition and jazz at the University of North Texas College of Music from 1972-76. His teachers of composition included Martin Mailman and James Sellars. Daugherty also played jazz piano in the Two O'Clock Lab Band. It was after hearing the Dallas Symphony Orchestra perform the Piano Concerto by Samuel Barber that Daugherty decided to devote his full energies into composing music for the concert stage. In 1974, conductor Anshel Brusilow programmed a new work with the University of North Texas Symphony Orchestra, Daugherty was 20 years of age. After his premiere of Movements for Orchestra, the composition faculty awarded Daugherty a fellowship, which allowed him to continue his musical studies at the university. Daugherty received a Bachelor of Music degree in Composition from North Texas State University in 1976.

That same year, Daugherty moved to New York City to experience the exploding new music scene. While there, he studied serialism with Charles Wuorinen at the Manhattan School of Music for two years, and received a Master of Music in Composition degree in 1977. To earn money for his studies, Daugherty was employed as an usher at Carnegie Hall and a rehearsal pianist for dance classes directed by the New York City Ballet dancer Jacques d'Amboise.

Daughterty at IRCAM, 1979

Daugherty frequently attended "uptown" and "downtown" new music concerts in New York City; this is where he became acquainted with composers such as Milton Babbitt, Morton Feldman, and Pierre Boulez. In 1978, Boulez, then the Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, invited Daugherty to apply to his recently opened computer music institute in Paris: IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique). A Fulbright Fellowship enabled Daugherty to move to Paris to study computer music at IRCAM from 1979-80. During his time at IRCAM, he met many composers such as Luciano Berio, Gérard Grisey, Todd Machover, and Frank Zappa. In Paris, Daughery had the opportunity to hear contemporary music by the leading European composers of the time performed by the Ensemble l'Itinéraire and Boulez’s Ensemble InterContemporain. He also attended analysis classes given by Betsy Jolas at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris.

In the fall of 1980, Daugherty returned to America to pursue doctoral studies in composition at the Yale School of Music. During that time, Jacob Druckman (who was one of America's most influential composers) was chair of the composition department at Yale and composer in residence with the New York Philharmonic. Daugherty studied with Druckman and other Pulitzer Prize winning composers at Yale, including Bernard Rands and Roger Reynolds. He also studied improvisational notation systems and open form with experimental music composer Earle Brown. Daugherty’s composition class at Yale included student composers who would later become unique and important voices in contemporary music: Bang on a Can composers Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe; along with Robert Beaser, Aaron Jay Kernis, Scott Lindroth, and Betty Olivero.

At Yale, Daugherty wrote his dissertation on the relationship between the music of Charles Ives and Gustav Mahler and the writings of Goethe and Ralph Waldo Emerson. He worked closely on this dissertation with John Kirkpatrick, who was the curator of the Ives Collection at Yale and gave the 1938 premiere of Ives’ Piano Sonata No. 2: Concord Sonata. Daugherty also continued his interest in jazz where he worked with Willie Ruff and directed the Yale Jazz Ensemble. It was Ruff who introduced Daugherty to jazz arranger Gil Evans, who, at that time, was looking for an assistant. For the next several years, Daugherty traveled by train from New Haven to Evans private studio on the lower Westside of Manhattan. Daugherty helped Evans organize his music manuscripts and complete projects. The most notable project was the reconstruction of the lost arrangements of Porgy and Bess, which was originally used for the 1958 recording with Miles Davis.

During the summer of 1981, Daugherty studied composition with Pulitzer Prize winning composer Mario Davidovsky as a composition fellow at Tanglewood, which, at that time, was renowned as a bastion of abstract and atonal music. It was at Tanglewood that Daugherty met the composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein. After hearing Daugherty's music at Tanglewood, Bernstein encouraged Daugherty to seriously consider integrating American popular music with concert music. In the early 1980s, Bernstein's eclectic attitude was rarely shared by composers of "serious" contemporary concert music.[vague]

One year later, in the summer of 1982, Daugherty traveled to Germany to attend the Darmstädter Ferienkurse (Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik - Darmstadt International Summer Courses in New Music). Darmdstadt was one of the leading centers for new music in Europe, where the musical aesthetics of Theodor W. Adorno were still of great influence. Daugherty attended lectures given by composers, including Brian Ferneyhough and Karlheinz Stockhausen, and performances by the Arditti String Quartet. At Darmstadt, Daugherty became friends with the trumpet player Markus Stockhausen, the son of Karlheinz Stockhausen. Together they formed an experimental improvisation ensemble (Stockhausen on trumpet and electronics and Daugherty on synthesizers) that, over several years, performed in concert halls and clubs across Europe.

From left to right: György Ligeti, Lucas Ligeti, Mrs. György Ligeti, Conlon Nancarrow, and Michael Daugherty at the ISCM World Music Days in Graz, Austria, 1982

In the fall of 1982, Daugherty was invited by composer György Ligeti to study composition with him at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg. In addition to attending Ligeti’s composition seminar (which took place at his apartment in Hamburg), Daugherty traveled with Ligeti to attend concerts and festivals of his music throughout Europe. At the time, Ligeti was interested in the music of Conlon Nancarrow, who lived in isolation in Mexico City and composed complex polyrhythmic music for player pianos. The player piano (by now an antique) was a familiar and nostalgic musical instrument to Daugherty. Daugherty met Nancarrow in Graz, Austria, when Ligeti introduced Nancarrow and his music to the European intelligentsia at the 1982 ISCM (International Society for Contemporary Music) World Music Days. During following two years (1983–84), Daugherty continued to study with Ligeti while employed as a solo jazz pianist in night clubs in Cambridge, England and Amsterdam. To create "original" music, Ligeti encouraged and inspired Daugherty to find new ways to integrate computer music, jazz, rock, and American popular music with concert music. In the fall of 1984, Daugherty returned to America and devoted his career to doing just that.

Teaching: Oberlin, Michigan, Residencies, and Service

Daugherty is an active educator of young composers and advocate for contemporary music. As an Assistant Professor of Composition at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music (1986–91), Daugherty organized guest residencies of composers with performances of their music; these included Luciano Berio, John Harbison, Christopher Rouse, Roger Reynolds, Kenneth Gaburo, Morton Subotnick, Herbert Brun, and Salvatore Martirano. Daugherty also organized the 1988 Electronic Festival Plus Festival, which took place at Oberlin and featured music from over 50 composers. At Oberlin, Daugherty (playing synthesizer) also performed and recorded with jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd who taught there from 1987-89.

In 1991, Daugherty was invited to join the composition faculty at the University of Michigan School of Music (Ann Arbor). He replaced Pulitzer Prize winning composer Leslie Bassett, who retired after 40 years of service to the university. Daugherty was co-chair of the composition department with composer William Bolcom from 1998–2001, and chair of the department from 2002-06. As a Professor of Composition at the University of Michigan, Daugherty has been and continues to be a mentor to many of today's most talented young composers, many who been recognized by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, have won composer awards from BMI and ASCAP, and have received commissions from important orchestras, wind ensembles, and chamber ensembles, such as eighth blackbird, Kronos Quartet, and Dogs of Desire. These composers include, among others: Richard Adams, Stacy Garrop, Derek Bermel, Gabriela Frank, D. J. Sparr, Joel Puckett, David Little, Roshanne Etezady, Armando Bayolo, Kristen Kuster, Andrew Bishop, Daniel Roumain, Felicia Sandler, Stephen Newby, Carter Pann, Alexandra Vrebalov, Christopher Dietz, Ian Dicke, Elizabeth Kelly, Joshua Penman, David Schober, Kevin Beavers, James Lee III, Andrea Reinkemeyer, Alexis Bacon, William Zuckerman, Matthew Tommasini, Manly Romero, David Maki, and Arlene Sierra. Many of Daugherty's former students are also professors of composition at major universities and schools of music across America and abroad.

At the University of Michigan, Daugherty has organized residencies of guest composers with performances of their music; these include Henryk Górecki, Louis Andriessen, Michael Colgrass, David Lang, Tania Leone, Michael Torke, Joan Tower, and Betsy Jolas. He has also composed many new works, including Niagara Falls (1997) and Bells for Stokowski (2002), for the University of Michigan Symphony Band and its two most recent conductors, H. Robert Reynolds (directorship 1975-2001) and Michael Haithcock (directorship 2001–present).

Daugherty has served as a final judge for the Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) Student Composers Awards, the Guadeamus International Composers Competition, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's Elaine Lebenborn Award for Female Composers. He has also been a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet the Composer, and other arts organizations. Daugherty has served as a composer mentor for reading sessions of young composers music by organizations such as the American Composers Orchestra, Minnesota Composers Orchestra, Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, Omaha Symphony, and the Young Composers Institute in Apeldoorn (Netherlands).

Daugherty is active as an advocate of new music with numerous orchestras throughout America. He was the Composer-in-Residence with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (1999–2003), Louisville Orchestra (2000), Colorado Symphony Orchestra (2001–02), Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music (2001–04, 2006–08), Westshore Symphony Orchestra (2005–06), Eugene Symphony (2006), the Henry Mancini Institute (2006), and Music from Angel Fire Chamber Music Festival (2006).

Daugherty is a frequent guest composer at American universities and schools of music, where he gives master classes on his music and works with young composers and student ensembles. Institutions of higher learning who have invited Daugherty include, among others, the University of Texas at Austin, University of Colorado at Boulder, Rice University, Northwestern University, Syracuse University, Indiana University, University of Iowa, University of North Texas, Vanderbilt University, Louisiana State University, Appalachian State University, University of Southern California, Eastman School of Music, The Hartt School, Juilliard School of Music, and Shenandoah University, Conservatory of Music.

In 2001, Daugherty was invited to present his music with performances by the United States Air Force Band at The Midwest Clinic "The Midnight Special" in Chicago, Illinois. Additionally in the Chicago area, Daugherty has frequently participated in the Ravinia Festival Community Outreach program which is designed to promote and encourage new music by student ensembles in the Chicago Public Schools. Daugherty continues to work with many youth orchestras, wind ensembles, and bands across the country.

Awards and honors

Daugherty has received numerous awards, distinctions, and fellowships for his music, these include: the Kennedy Center Freidheim Award (1989) for his compositions Snap! and Blue Like an Orange, the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1991), fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1992), the Guggenheim Foundation (1996), and the Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (2000). In 2005, Daugherty received the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra Composer's Award, and in 2007, the Delaware Symphony Orchestra selected Daugherty as the winner of the A. I. duPont Award. Also in 2007, Daugherty was named "Outstanding Classical Composer" at the Detroit Music Awards and received the American Bandmasters Association Ostwald Award for his composition Raise the Roof for Timpani and Symphonic Band.

Works List


  • Mount Rushmore for Chorus and Orchestra (2010)
  • Letters from Lincoln for Baritone and Orchestra (2009)
  • March of the Metro (2008)
  • TROYJAM for Narrator and Orchestra (2008)
  • Ghost Ranch (2005)
  • Tell My Fortune (2004)
  • Time Machine for Three Conductors and Orchestra (2003)
  • Pachelbel's Key for Youth Orchestra (2002)
  • Philadelphia Stories (2001)
  • Motor City Triptych (2000)
  • Sunset Strip (1999)
  • Route 66 (1998)
  • Leap Day for Youth Orchestra (1996)
  • Metropolis Symphony (1988–93)
  • Flamingo (1991)

Concerti with Orchestra

  • Trail of Tears for Flute and Orchestra (2010)
  • Gee's Bend for Electric Guitar and Orchestra (2009)
  • Deus Ex Machina for Piano and Orchestra (2007)
  • Bay of Pigs for Classical Guitar and String Orchestra (2006)
  • Above Clouds for Four Horns and Orchestra (2005)
  • Crystal for Flute, Alto Flute, and Chamber Orchestra, from Tell My Fortune (2004)
  • Once Upon a Castle: Symphonie Concertante for Organ and Orchestra (2003)
  • Fire and Blood for Violin and Orchestra (2003)
  • Raise the Roof for Timpani and Orchestra (2003)
  • Tell-Tale Harp for Two Harps and Orchestra, from Philadelphia Stories (2001)
  • UFO for Solo Percussion and Orchestra (1999)
  • Hell's Angels for Bassoon Quartet and Orchestra (1998–99)
  • Spaghetti Western for English Horn and Orchestra (1998)
  • Le Tombeau de Liberace for Piano and Orchestra (1996)
  • Mxyzptlk for 2 Flutes and Chamber Orchestra, from Metropolis Symphony (1988)

Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble

  • Bells for Stokowski (2002)
  • Rosa Parks Boulevard for Three Trombones and Symphonic Band (2001)
  • Red Cape Tango for Symphonic Band (1999)
  • Niagara Falls (1997)
  • Bizarro (1993)
  • Desi (1991)

Concerti with Symphonic Band or Symphonic Winds

  • Raise the Roof for Timpani and Symphonic Band (2007)
  • Brooklyn Bridge for Clarinet and Symphonic Band (2005)
  • UFO for Solo Percussion and Symphony Band (2000)
  • Ladder to the Moon for Solo Violin and Chamber Ensemble (2006)
  • Dead Elvis for Solo Bassoon and Chamber Ensemble (1993)


  • Jackie O (1997)

Voice and Orchestra or Chamber Ensemble

  • Letters from Lincoln for Baritone and Orchestra (2009)
  • TROYJAM for Narrator and Orchestra (2008)


  • Mount Rushmore for Chorus and Orchestra (2010)

Large Chamber Ensemble

  • Asclepius Fanfare for Brass and Percussion (2007)
  • Ladder to the Moon for Solo Violin, Wind Octet, Double Bass and Percussion (2006)
  • Timbuktuba for Euphonium/Tubas Ensemble and Percussion (1996)
  • What's That Spell? for Two Sopranos and Chamber Ensemble (1995)
  • Motown Metal for Brass and Percussion (1994)
  • Snap! (1987)
  • Blue Like an Orange (1987)

Small Chamber Ensemble

  • Bay of Pigs for Acoustic Guitar and String Quartet (2006)
  • Diamond in the Rough for Violin, Viola and Percussion (2006)
  • Regrets Only for violin, Cello and Piano (2006)
  • Walk the Walk for Baritone Sax (or bass clarinet or contrabassoon) and Percussion (2005)
  • Crystal, from Tell My Fortune for Flute, Alto Flute and Piano (2004)
  • The High and the Mighty for Piccolo and Piano (2000)
  • Used Car Salesman for Percussion Quartet (2000)
  • Bounce for two Bassoons (1998)
  • Sinatra Shag for Solo Violin, Bass Clarinet, Cello, Piano and Percussion (1997)
  • Jackie's Song for Solo Cello (1996)
  • Yo amaba a Lucy (I Loved Lucy) for Flute and Classical Guitar (1996)
  • Lounge Lizards for two Pianos and two Percussion (1994)
  • Shaken Not Stirred for three Percussion and Electric Bass (1994)
  • Dead Elvis for Solo Bassoon and Chamber Ensemble (1993)
  • Lex for Electric Violin, four Percussion, Timpani, Synthesizers and Electric Bass (1991)
  • Firecracker for Solo Oboe, Flute(Piccolo), Bass Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Percussion and Piano (1991)
  • Viola Zombie for two Violas (1991)

String Orchestra

  • Bay of Pigs for Classical Guitar and String Orchestra (2006)
  • Octet: Mendelssohn-Daugherty (2002)
  • Strut (1989)

Large Brass Ensemble

  • Asclepius Fanfare for Brass and Percussion (2007)
  • Timbuktuba for Euphonium/Tubas Ensemble and Percussion (1996)
  • Motown Metal for Brass and Percussion (1994)

Percussion Ensemble

  • Used Car Salesman Percussion Quartet (2000)
  • Shaken Not Stirred for three Percussion and Electric Bass (1994)
  • Lex for Electric Violin, four Percussion, Timpani, Synthesizers and Electric Bass (1991)

String Quartet and Pre-Recorded Sound

  • Paul Robeson Told Me (1994)
  • Elvis Everywhere (1993)
  • 'Sing Sing: J. Edgar Hoover (1992)

Solo Instrument

  • Venetial Blinds (2002)
  • Monk in the Kitchen (2001)
  • Jackie's Song (1996)
  • Piano Plus (1985)

Notes and references

  1. ^ Finch, H. (1998). You'll believe a band can fly. The Times, (London, England), Arts. April 2, 1998.

External links


This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Michael Daugherty. Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.
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