Composer Michael Colgrass began his musical career in Chicago, where his first professional experiences were as a jazz drummer. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1954 with a degree in performance and composition. He also trained with Darius Milhaud at the Aspen Festival and Lukas Foss at Tanglewood.
He began his professional composing career in New York City, where he also worked as a free-lance percussionist for the New York Philharmonic, American Ballet Theater, Dizzy Gillespie, the Modern Jazz Quartet, the original West Side Story orchestra on Broadway, and the Columbia Recording Orchestra’s Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky series. He organized the percussion sections for premieres of new works by Gunther Schuller, John Cage, Elliott Carter and Edgard Varese.
In 1978, Colgrass won the Pulitzer Prize for Music for Déjà vu, which was commissioned and premiered by the New York Philharmonic. In 1982, he won an Emmy Award for a PBS documentary Soundings: The Music of Michael Colgrass. He received two Guggenheim Fellowships, A Rockefeller Grant, First Prize in the Barlow and Sudler International Wind Ensemble Competitions, and the 1988 Jules Leger Prize for Chamber Music.
Now living in Toronto, Colgrass has earned commissions from the Boston Symphony and the orchestras of Minnesota, Detroit, San Francisco, St.Louis, Pittsburgh and Toronto, plus the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, Fromm and Ford Foundations, and The Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Colgrass authored My Lessons with Kumi outlining his techniques for performance and creativity. His newest book is Adventures of an American Composer.