The Kennedy Center

Michael Abels


Composer and arranger, Michael Abels, was born in Phoenix, Arizona, but grew up in rural South Dakota where he studied piano at an early age. He was a quick study, and began composing at age 8, having his first completed work performed at 13. He attended the University of Southern California and studied with James Hopkins and Robert Linn. In 1984 he was named Outstanding Senior among student composers for his composition, Queries. From 1985 to 1986, he was a student of West African music at the California Institute for the Arts.
Michael Abel has gained widespread recognition for his orchestral pieces, Global Warming and Frederick’s Fables, a piece he narrated at the Kennedy Center for the National Symphony Orchestra. Global Warming, featured in Detroit Symphony’s 1992 African-American Symphony Composers Forum was one of the first works of a black composer to be performed by the National Symphony of South Africa after President Mandela was elected. Dance for Martin’s Dream was a piece he wrote expressing sorrow and joy in the composer’s experience with Martin Luther King’s legacy.
His most recent orchestral work, Tribute, was commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra and it premiered on November 8, 2001 under the direction of Marin Alsop. Inspired by the heroes of the September 11th attacks, Tribute was first piece performed by the NSO that was written after the attack on the World Trade Center.
Other works include American Variations on “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” for trumpet and orchestra and was premiered by Doc Severinsen and the Phoenix Symphony. Abels has also arranged gospel music for renown gospel artist Reverend James Cleveland.
Jukebox: Mercury Soul


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