Long Biography | Michael Daugherty, composer

Long Biography

Multiple GRAMMY Award-winning composer Michael Daugherty is one of the most commissioned, performed and recorded composers on the American concert music scene today. His music is rich with cultural allusions and bears the stamp of classic modernism, with colliding tonalities and blocks of sound; at the same time, his melodies can be eloquent and stirring. Daugherty has been hailed by The Times (London) as “a master icon maker” with a “maverick imagination, fearless structural sense, and meticulous ear.”

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 living American composers.

In 2011 the Nashville Symphony’s Naxos recording of Daugherty’s Metropolis Symphony for orchestra and Deus ex Machina for piano and orchestra was honored with three GRAMMY® Awards, including Best Classical Contemporary Composition. In 2017 the Nashville Symphony’s Naxos recording of Daugherty’s Tales of Hemingway for cello and orchestra was honored with three GRAMMY® Awards, including Best Classical Contemporary Composition.


Born in 1954 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Daugherty is the son of a dance-band drummer and the oldest of five brothers, all professional musicians. He 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 (1980-82). 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, Theatre & Dance at the University of Michigan in 1991, where he is Professor of Composition.

Daugherty has been Composer-in-Residence numerous orchestra over the years including the Louisville Symphony Orchestra (2000), Detroit Symphony Orchestra (1999-2003), Colorado Symphony Orchestra (2001-02), Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music (2001-04, 2006-08, 2011 and 2014), Westshore Symphony Orchestra (2005-06), Eugene Symphony (2006), the Henry Mancini Summer Institute (2006), the Music from Angel Fire Chamber Music Festival (2006), the Pacific Symphony (2010), Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra (2012), New Century Orchestra (2014), Albany Symphony (2015), National Repertory Orchestra (2018) and the Winnipeg New Music Festival (2020).

Daugherty’s orchestral music has been commissioned and premiered by, among others, the Albany Symphony Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (United Kingdom), Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, New Century Chamber Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Phiharmonia Orchestra (London), RAI Symphony Orchestra (Italy), Nashville Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Pacific Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Phoenix Symphony, Rochester Symphony Orchestra, San Antonio Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Spokane Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and Syracuse Symphony.

Daugherty’s band and wind ensemble music has been commissioned and premiered by, among others, the University of Michigan,  University of Miami (Coral Gables), Michigan State University, San Diego State University and University of Texas (Austin) and Texas A&M University-Commerce.

Conductors who have directed world premieres of Daugherty’s orchestral music include Marin Alsop, Neal Gittleman, Giancarlo Guerrero, David Kawaka, Mariss Jansons, Neeme Järvi, David Alan Miller, Leonard Slatkin, Carl St.Clair, Markus Stenz, Michael Tilson Thomas, Hugh Wolff and David Zinman.

Conductors who have directed world premieres of Daugherty’s band and wind ensemble music include Phillip Clements, Gary Green, Jerry Junkin, Shannon Kitelinger, Michael Haithcock, H. Robert Reynolds, Emily Threinen and John Whitwell.

Performing artists and ensembles who have given world premieres of Daugherty’s music include Zuill Bailey (cello), Bash Ensemble (percussion), Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Paul Crossley (piano), Dogs of Desire, Manuel Barrueco (classical guitar), Ethos Percussion Ensemble, Greg Fulkerson (violin), Dame Evelyn Glennie (percussion), Thomas Hampson (baritone), Paul Jacobs (organ), Carol Jantsch (tuba), Kronos Quartet, Ida Kavafian (violin), Anne Akiko Meyers (violin), Hila Plitmann (soprano), Amy Porter (flute), Present Music (Milwaukee), Mike Rowe (narrator), London Sinfonietta, DJ Sparr (electric guitar), Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg (violin), Michael Wayne (clarinet), Terrence Wilson (piano) and Chuck Ullery (bassoon).

At the University of Michigan, Daugherty has organized residencies over the years by renowned guest composers such as Louis Andriessen, Michael Colgrass, Henryk Górecki, Betsy Jolas, David Lang, Tania Leone, György Ligeti, Michael Torke and Joan Tower.

In 2010, Daugherty organized a historic three-day festival and conference called ONCE. MORE. Held November 2-4 at Rackham Auditorium on the University of Michigan campus, the event featured composers Robert Ashley, Gordon Mumma, Roger Reynolds and Donald Scarvada, who returned to Ann Arbor 50 years after hosting the original ONCE festival in Ann Arbor from 1961-66. ONCE. MORE. featured concerts of their recent works, as well as their innovative compositions from the original ONCE festival.

Since 1991, Daugherty has been a mentor to many of today’s most talented young composers at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance. Former students of Michael Daugherty include Richard Adams, Clarice Assad, Alexis Bacon, Kevin Beavers, Marcin Bela, Derek Bermel, John Berners, David Biedenbender, Andrew Bishop, Bret Bohman, Julia Bozone, Matt Browne, Daniel Thomas Davis, Ian Dicke, Christopher Dietz, Paul Dooley, Roshanne Etezady, Gala Flagelo, Gabriela Lena Frank, Tucker Fuller, Rodney Grisanti, Iman Habibi, Patrick Harlin, Carolina Heredia, Deniz Ince, Donia Jarrar, Elizabeth Kelly, Kristin Kuster, James Lee III, Shuying Li, David T. Little, Pei Lu, John Maki, Kevin March, Theresa Martin, Jeff Myers, Stephen Newby, Carter Pann, Jules Pegram, Joshua Penman, Tanner Porter, Joel Puckett, Andrea Reinkemeyer, Manly Romero, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Felicia Sandler, Michael Schachter, David Schober, Nina Shekhar, Arlene Sierra, Carlos Simon, D.J. Sparr, Matthew Tommasini, Kirsten Volness, Aleksandra Vrebalov, Daniel Worley, Roger Zare, Daniel Zlatkin, and Bill Zuckerman.

Organizations such as the American Composers Orchestra, Minnesota Composers Orchestra, Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, Omaha Symphony, and the Young Composers Institute in Apeldoorn (Netherlands) have invited Daugherty to be advisor and mentor for reading sessions and performances of music by promising young composers.  Daugherty has also served as a final judge for the BMI Student Composer Awards in 2010 and 2018.

Daugherty is a frequent guest composer at universities and colleges in the United States. Past residencies include, among others, the University of Texas at Austin, University of Colorado at Boulder, Rice University, Northwestern University, Syracuse University, Indiana University, University of Iowa, University of North Texas, Vanderbilt University, Louisiana State University, Appalachian State University, University of Southern California, Eastman School of Music, The Hartt School, Juilliard School of Music, Shenandoah University Conservatory of Music and Yale University.

Daugherty is also a frequent guest at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago, where his wind ensemble music is performed by high school, college, and professional wind ensembles. In 2001, the United States Air Force Band performed a concert of Daugherty’s music at the Midwest Clinic’s “Midnight Special.”

Daugherty also collaborates with youth wind ensembles and orchestras throughout America: In 2004, the Ravinia Festival Community Outreach program invited Daugherty to work with student ensembles in the Chicago public middle and high schools; in 2002, Daugherty composed Alligator Alley for the Slauson Middle School Band (Ann Arbor); in 2014, Daugherty composed Vulcan for the Pioneer, Huron, and Skyline High School Bands in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Ann Arbor High School Bands.

Daugherty has received numerous awards, distinctions and fellowships for his music, including: a Fulbright Fellowship (1977), the Kennedy Center Friedheim Award (1989), 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 recipient of the A.I. DuPont Award. Also in 2007, he received the American Bandmasters Association Ostwald Award for his composition Raise the Roof for timpani and symphonic band. Daugherty has been named “Outstanding Classical Composer” at the Detroit Music Awards in 2007, 2009 and 2010.

His GRAMMY® Award-winning recordings can be heard on, among others, the Albany, Argo, Delos, Equilibrium, Klavier, Naxos, and Nonesuch labels.  Daugherty’s music is published by Michael Daugherty Music, Peermusic Classical and Boosey & Hawkes. For more information on Michael Daugherty and his music, see his publisher’s websites.

Click here for Michael Daugherty’s short biography