Michael Pagán was born in Ravenna, Ohio. He was raised in a musical family and received his first piano instruction from his parents. He remembers hearing recordings of Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, and Miles Davis, as well as Beethoven, at an early age. At Kent State University he earned his Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education with emphases in piano/choral music and a Master of Arts in composition, where his teachers were James Waters, Thomas Janson, and Frank Wiley. He was a music theory student of Hugh A. Glauser, after whom the school is presently named. Mike played piano in the new music ensemble under the direction of Frank Wiley and the jazz ensemble under the direction of Chas Baker. His piano teachers included Toni Glauser, Lois Rova Ozanich, Robert Palmieri, and Olga Kuehl-White of the University of Akron. The piano playing and compositions of the late Pat Pace were also an influence. During those years Mike played jazz piano and bass throughout Northeast Ohio. He also played bass in the KSU Orchestra. He received his Doctor of Music degree in composition from Northwestern University, where his principle composition teachers were Lynden DeYoung, Alan Stout, and Steven Syverud. He played piano in the NU jazz and contemporary music ensembles, both directed by Don Owens and continued piano studies with Laurence Davis. While in Chicago he was named a “musician deserving wider recognition” by Downbeat magazine. As a jazz pianist he has performed for over 40 years throughout the United States and in Europe with many notable jazz musicians. Ensembles he has performed with as a soloist include the Ashland (OH) Symphony Orchestra, the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra, the Northshore Concert Band, and the Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra of Denver. In 2017 he was a jazz soloist with the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra and in 2019 with the Southeastern Louisiana University Jazz Ensemble. He has also played exteneded engagements aboard the historic steamboat Delta Queen on the Mississippi River, specializing in early as well as mainstream jazz. Since 2009 he has held an on-going Tuesday night solo engagement at Cafe Trio in Kansas City, MO.
Mike has produced an extensive list of compositions and arrangements, over 150 works, mostly in the jazz idiom. He has apeared on twenty-five CDs as a leader or supporting artist and has received numerous awards for his writing, including First Prize, New Music for Young Ensembles composers competition, which included a Carnegie Hall premiere. He has been commissioned by the American Jazz Museum, the Michigan Music Teachers Association, the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra, WLS-TV Channel 7, Chicago and high schools and colleges throughout the country. His big band CD Pag’s Groove received airplay and critical acclaim throughout the United States and in Europe, earning a 5-star review in the Irish Times of Dublin. His CD Three For The Ages featuring bassist Bob Bowman and drummer Ray DeMarchi garnered glowing reviews and enjoys worldwide play on the internet; his 12 Preludes and Fugues was recorded by the Colorado Saxophone Quartet and also received outstanding reviews.
Pagán has taught at Ottawa University in Ottawa, KS where he directed BRAVO!, the Ottawa University Jazz Singers and taught music theory, composition, arranging, and applied jazz and classical piano. He chaired the OUKS Music Department from 2016-19. Dr. Pagán has also served as Director of Marketing and Communications at the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, and Assistant Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Missouri Kansas City Conservatory. He has also been on the faculties at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and Olivet College. Michael Pagán has also led a distinguished career as a jazz ensemble/vocal jazz ensemble conductor and clinician. Under his directorship the BRAVO! Jazz Singers of Ottawa University garnered multiple outstanding performance awards and the UMKC Conservatory Concert Jazz Band was selected for performance at the Missouri Music Educators Association conference. He has directed/worked with honor jazz ensembles in Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Minnesota, and Illinois. For five years he directed the Colorado Jazz Workshop Monday Night Band. In 2019 and '20 he was pianist for the Kansas Music Edicators Association Jazz Ensemble, which performed his music and in early 2021 he was featured as a big band composer/eader and solo jazz piano recitalist in two virtutal concerts at Johnson County Community College in Kansas. He continues to play the bass as a secondary instrument.