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Michael Malis (b. 1988) is a composer, pianist, and music educator based in Detroit MI. A multi-faceted musical artist, he performs as a jazz musician, composes for the concert stage, and contributes to multidisciplinary collaborations. In 2018, his compositions were commissioned by organizations such as Chamber Music Society of Detroit and the Great Lakes Music Festival. In 2017, he released an album of duets with saxophonist Marcus Elliot, entitled “Balance.” The album was praised by the Detroit Metro Times as “contemporary jazz of the highest order, a benchmark for where the genre can go.” He has been lauded for his scores for film and theater, which have garnered awards, critical acclaim, and have reached international audiences. He has shared the stage with such luminaries as Marcus Belgrave, Tyshawn Sorey, William Hooker, Jaribu Shahid, John Lindberg, Ken Filiano, J.D. Allen, Andrew Bishop, Dennis Coffey, and Marion Hayden.
Longer (~500 words)
Michael Malis (b. 1988) is a composer, pianist, and music educator based in Detroit MI. A multi-faceted musical artist, he performs as a jazz musician, composes for the concert stage, and contributes to multidisciplinary collaborations.
2018 saw a wide proliferation of his catalogue of concert music. His trio for piano, percussion, and multi-reedist, Numerology, was commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Detroit. His first string quartet, Emerge, was premiered at the Detroit Institute of Arts. His piece for piano and cello, Coda, was commissioned by the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival.
Malis has been perennially active as a performer-composer, both as a soloist and in collaborative settings. In August 2017, he released an album of duets with saxophonist Marcus Elliot, entitled “Balance.” The album was praised by the Detroit Metro Times as “contemporary jazz of the highest order, a benchmark for where the genre can go.” The duo was also named an Artist-in-Residence at the Chamber Music Society of Detroit in 2017-2018, launching a new educational initiative which brought jazz to students in public schools utilizing an innovative merger of technology and live performance.
In July of 2015, Malis self-released his debut album as a leader, “Lifted from the No of All Nothing,” featuring all original music. The Detroit Free Press called it “an uncommonly mature and distinctive debut… The music is loose and spontaneous, alert to dynamics and textural variety while balancing formal detail and discipline with freedom.” It was described by Hot House Jazz Guide (NYC) as “cover[ing] a broad range of free expression. [Malis] bridges the gap between original composed, complex material and the spontaneity of improvisation.” In September 2016, his trio performed at the Detroit International Jazz Festival.
As a pianist, he has shared the stage with a diverse array of musicians, including notables such as Marcus Belgrave, Tyshawn Sorey, William Hooker, Jaribu Shahid, Ken Filiano, JD Allen, John Lindberg, A. Spencer Barefield, Andrew Bishop, and Marion Hayden. He has performed at the Yokohama Jazz Promenade (Yokohama, Japan), the Kennedy Center, Birdland (NYC), and The Stone (NYC), among other venues.
In 2012, Malis wrote the score for the Fratellanza Theater Complany production “The Mute Quire,” which was named “Best International Production” of the Galway (Ireland) Fringe Festival. His second collaboration with Fratellanza, “String Up the Moon,” premiered in Detroit to critical acclaim in September of 2013. In April 2019, Malis and Fratellanza’s Paul Manganello will be in residence at the Cleveland Public Theater, developing and premiering a new two-person piece.
He started playing the piano at age five, and started writing music shortly thereafter. In high school, he began his studies in earnest with Detroit jazz piano legend Bess Bonnier. After high school, he attended the University of Michigan, where he studied with the eminent jazz pianist Geri Allen. In May 2018, he received his Master’s degree from Wayne State University in Composition/Theory, studying with Jon Anderson, Joo Won Park, and Karl Braunschweig. He currently teaches piano and music theory at the Detroit Institute of Music Education (DIME).