At the age of 8, piano was Michael’s first instrument. The egg timer was set by his mother for 30 minutes every day atop the small spinet piano in the living room. Regardless of other goings on tugging at Michael’s interests, piano practicing always came first.
At age ten, Michael discovered the trombone. No longer did practicing need to be mandated. Playing trombone would become his favorite activity fueling a passion that would last a lifetime.
Michael attended Arizona State University where he studied with renowned jazz educator Dan Haerle. It was at ASU where he first saw an alto trombone, the odd instrument he would play for the rest of his career. His trombone teacher at ASU, a graduate assistant named Kevin Hedges owned an alto and first introduced it to Michael.
Professionally active and pursuing a jazz performance degree, abandoning the tenor trombone in favor of this beautiful instrument of clarity and efficiency was not a practical move. Nonetheless, Michael was determined to make it his musical voice. From that point, it would become the instrument he would play professionally and exclusively.
Mid-way through his ASU education, Michael was awarded a National Endowment of the arts grant to study for a summer with Frank Rosolino. In November prior to the summer of study with Frank, Michael learned of Frank’s tragic death. Looking for an alternative that would be acceptable to the National Endowment board, Michael reached out to avant garde trombonist George Lewis. George, he learned, would be teaching that summer at the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock NY, and welcomed the opportunity to work with Michael. He was exposed that fascinating summer not only to George Lewis, but would also study with Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, and other members of the Art Ensemble of Chicago.