New York City native Michael Cohen has a diverse and expansive career as a composer. His many compositions include works for chamber ensemble, musical theater, opera, and television. He attended the High School of Music and Art and the Dalcroze School of Music, graduated cum laude from Brandeis University, and studied composition with Harold Shapero and Irving Fine.
After completing a USO tour, Michael took on the role of Musical Director with the national touring company The Fantastics but was soon drafted into the United States Army where he became a member of the U.S. Army Band at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
Following his discharge from the Army, Michael held positions as Music Director on the flagship of the Norwegian American line, Associate Music Director at Atlanta’s Music Under the Stars, Dance Composer and Arranger at Tamiment resort, and Music Director at Green Mansions, a venue which produced weekly live theater events.
During his time at Green Mansions, Michael hired the yet undiscovered Madeline Kahn and a long friendship developed. He composed several songs for Madeline, including Das Chicago Song, which she sang for her Broadway debut in Leonard Sillman's musical revue New Faces of 1968 and later for an audition with film producer Mel Brooks for a role in Blazing Saddles.
As Music Director of the celebrated New York City revue venue, Upstairs at the Downstairs, Michael continued to compose material for Madeline, as well as Lily Tomlin, Fanny Flagg, Marion Mercer, and Dixie Carter, among others.
In 1969 Michael established the music department at Grey Advertising in New York City, and over a period of 30 years as Senior Vice President, Director of Music, produced and composed thousands of commercials, winning multiple Clio awards.
In 1981 he teamed up with librettist Linsey Abrams to write Rappaccini's Daughter, a two-act opera based on Natheniel Hawthorne’s short story by the same name. Rappaccini's Daughter, a finalist in the New York City Opera competition, was developed at the Eugene O'Neill Center, and later at the Minnesota Opera.
Michael and writer Enid Futterman collaborated on Yours, Anne, a music-theater piece based on The Diary of Anne Frank. Yours, Anne has been performed in many U.S. cities, as well as in England, Holland, Brazil, and Japan. The success of Yours, Anne resulted in two commissioned works–the song cycle I Am Anne Frank, performed by Andrea Marcovicci and the American Symphony Orchestra for the Spirit of Anne Frank Awards at Lincoln Center, and I Remember, a chamber work which premiered at the U.S. Memorial Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.
Michael scored and arranged A Passover Seder, a 1995 PBS television program presented by author and Nobel Laureate, Elie Weisel. He has received numerous commissions from the Concert Artists Guild, Serenata, Music Amici, the Manhattan Brass Quintet, and the trio Windsong. His composition, To Be A Child, was premiered at the Copland Heritage Society's official opening of the Aaron Copland home to the public.
Other notable works include Schehechyanu, a joint commission by Central Synagogue in New York City and Rodef Shalom in Pittsburgh, From the Wall, a chamber piece based on an anonymous holocaust text, Two Songs, with text by Edna St. Vincent Millay, which premiered at the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival with soprano Amy Burton, and The Gathering Place.
Michael has served as a board member for the Concert Artists Guild, The Center for Contemporary Opera, and The American Society for Jewish Music. He is a member of ASCAP.
Awards, Achievements, Memberships