Michael J. Miles

“Give the banjo to Michael J. Miles and you’ll hear a mighty soul-stirring sound.” - Chicago Sun-Times

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Michael J. Miles is a musician, writer and educator whose curiosity and creativity are undeniably one-of-a-kind. Imagine Bach on the 5-string banjo, the fretless, sweaty blues of the 1930’s and the inspired folk music revolution of Bob Dylan. Miles has been celebrated for his virtuosity, but it’s his love of music, literature, history and politics that inspires him. As a folk music hunter-gatherer and boundless genre-bender, you’ll be surprised by what he plays next.

“Rhythm and melody are what matters,” says Miles, “that’s why Woody Guthrie can follow Mick Jagger, or an Appalachian waltz can follow Take Five.”

Miles was awarded an Individual Artist Grant by the City of Chicago in 2018 and again in 2019, for new musical compositions. The legendary Old Town School of Folk Music honored him as the “2018 Musician and Educator of the Year.”

Chicago is home and always will be. Yet from Dublin to Dubuque, Casablanca to Castle Rock, Beirut to Barcelona—Miles’ musical collaborations have taken him around the world. Some of his more illustrious collaborators include Peter Seeger, Bela Fleck and jazz singer Jackie Allen. In performance, Michael offers three shows—Michael J. Miles, solo acoustic, From Senegal to Seeger, and as a duo with Lloyd Broadnax King.

Michael J. Miles, solo acoustic turns the stage into the living room of a Chicago Irish household where everyone sang, told stories and talked politics. Clawhammer banjo, fingerstyle guitar, songs across the centuries, stories from the bar and the streets of everywhere. The Midwest Record wrote, “Miles is Chicago’s best kept secret...one of the leading lights of contemporary instrumental music.”

Michael J. Miles and Lloyd Brodnax King
Lloyd is one of America’s finest jazz flute players—but he also sings and plays double bass. Miles and King have played together for nearly 40 years and have a musical dynamic that is loaded with unspoken clarity that comes from time well spent on stage. Repertoire includes originals along with 500 years of hit songs up to present day. Matt Watroba of WKAR praised, “Compelling improvisations. Great sounds, great songs, and great musicianship all around.”  

From Senegal To Seeger: Songs & Stories of the American Banjo
From Senegal to Seeger is Miles’ acclaimed one-man show featuring musical and written works of Pete Seeger, Carl Sandburg, Woody Guthrie, Walt Whitman, Johann Sebastian Bach, Mark Twain and others. Protest songs, fiddle tunes, minstrel sounds and a dazzling array of banjo playing forms the backbone of From Senegal to Seeger, but it is the poetic words and Miles’ masterfully woven narrative that complete this portrait of the American experience. Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, “Highly recommended….an exhilarating, musical and multi-dimensional journey….a provocative political and social history of America.”