Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Michael McDowell has a musical upbringing as varied as Louisiana's multicultural background. Though classically trained, he grew up listening to the piano stylings of Elton John and George Winston and began composing for piano before he was a teenager. Now he defines his unique style as “playing on the edge”. Virtuosic improvisation is what sets Michael apart from typical concert pianists and popular artists. Drawing from the rhythmic syncopations of modern music and complex harmonic and melodic contours of Baroque and Classical composers, each piece McDowell performs is a virtuosic gumbo seasoned on the spot with his own distinctive touch and flare - an approach that has earned him a global fan base.
His original compositions and arrangements have been programmed by orchestras, educational institutions, and independent ensembles alike. Sharing the stage with world renown musicians like Allen Toussaint (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) and studying with acclaimed maestro Dinos Constantinides (2004 Athens Olympics Music) McDowell has amassed a musical understanding few people achieve- and he's barely even old enough to drink!
At just 21 years old, McDowell improvises entire concerts along some of the world’s most talented ensembles. He purposely leaves out piano parts in his compositions so that every note he plays is made up on the spot. As long as he knows what the orchestra is doing, McDowell “plays on the edge” to the delight of audiences of all ages. No composer is safe from his improvisational reach as he fluidly transitions between classical composers, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Eric Clapton and Coldplay (to name a few). He forms every concert experience to be completely unique while maintaining the character and emotion his fans have come to love about his music.
"Playing on the edge" in his own words:
Playing on the edge is a construct of written music for orchestra that only implies piano parts or has no piano parts at all. Every note I play is spontaneously composed in real time for the audience. No two rehearsals or concerts are ever the same and I consider it a privilege to share once-in-a-lifetime musical experiences with my fans. Playing on the edge is a new experience for most orchestra goers and often a fun, refreshing way of viewing traditionally classical instrumentation. （http://www.mcdowellpianist.com/）