GRAMMY® award-winning composer Michael Daugherty is one of the most commissioned, performed, and recorded composers on the American concert music scene today. Daugherty first came to international attention when the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Zinman, performed his Metropolis Symphony at Carnegie Hall in 1994. Since that time, Daugherty’s music has entered the orchestral, band and chamber music repertory and made him, according to the League of American Orchestras, one of the ten most performed American composers. In 2011, the Nashville Symphony’s Naxos recording of Daugherty’s Metropolis Symphony and Deus ex Machina was honored with three GRAMMY® Awards, including Best Classical Contemporary Composition.
Michael Daugherty was born into a musical family on April 28, 1954 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His father Willis Daugherty (1929-2011) 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 Starring Johnny Carson. The record collection at the Daugherty home consisted mainly of “easy listening music” of the fifties and music from Broadway.
During his developmental years, Daugherty’s mother encouraged him to paint, draw cartoons, tap dance, and play basketball. His father taught him how to play rock and jazz drums. From 1963-67 Daugherty played bass drum in the Emerald Knights and tom-toms in the 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.
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. In 1964, the entire Daugherty family took a two-week vacation to London 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 Sly 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.
Daugherty studied music composition at the University of North Texas (1972-76), the Manhattan School of Music (1976-78), and computer music at Pierre Boulez’s IRCAM in Paris (1979-80). Daugherty received his doctorate from Yale University in 1986 where his teachers included Jacob Druckman, Earle Brown, Roger Reynolds, and Bernard Rands. During this time, he also collaborated with jazz arranger Gil Evans in New York, and pursued further studies with composer György Ligeti in Hamburg, Germany (1982-84). After teaching music composition from 1986-90 at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Daugherty joined the School of Music at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) in 1991, where he is Professor of Composition and mentor to many of today’s most talented young composers.
Daugherty has been the Composer-in-Residence with the Louisville Symphony Orchestra (2000), Detroit Symphony Orchestra (1999-2003), Colorado Symphony Orchestra (2001-02), Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music (2001-04, 2006-11), Westshore Symphony Orchestra (2005-06), Eugene Symphony (2006), the Henry Mancini Summer Institute (2006), the Music from Angel Fire Chamber Music Festival (2006), Pacific Symphony (2010-11), Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra (2012) and New Century Orchestra (2013).
Daugherty has received numerous awards, distinctions, and fellowships for his music, these include: a Fulbright Fellowship (1977), the Kennedy Center Friedheim 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) and 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. His recordings can be heard on the Albany, Argo, Delos, Equilibrium, Klavier, Naxos and Nonesuch labels.