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, when he was seven. At Kent State University he earned his Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education with an emphasis in piano and 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 was later 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 also provided inspiration. During those years Mike played jazz piano and bass in the Cleveland/Akron area. 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 study with Laurence Davis. While studying at Northwestern and playing jazz in Chicago he was named a “musician deserving wider recognition” by Downbeat magazine. He has performed for over 40 years throughout the United States and in Europe with many notable jazz musicians. In 2017 he was a soloist with the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra and in 2019 with the Southeastern Louisiana University Jazz Ensemble. He also played aboard the legendary steamboat Delta Queen on the Mississippi River. Since 2009 he has held an on-going Tuesday night 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 appeared on 25 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 received commissions from 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 2005 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 2010 CD Three for the Ages featuring bassist Bob Bowman and drummer Ray DeMarchi garnered glowing reviews and enjoys play on Spotify. His 12 Preludes and Fugues for saxophone quartet was recorded by the Colorado Saxophone Quartet and also received outstanding reviews.
Pagán is currently an associate professor at Ottawa University in Ottawa, KS where he joined the faculty in 2011. He directs BRAVO!, the Ottawa University Jazz Singers and teaches music theory, composition, arranging, and applied piano in classical and jazz contexts. 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, Director of Music at Blue Ridge Presbyterian Church (Raytown, MO), and Assistant Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Missouri Kansas City Conservatory (2005-10). He has also served on 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 have garnered three Outstanding Performance awards (2017-19) at the KCKCC Jazz Festival and the UMKC Conservatory Concert Jazz Band was selected for performance at the Missouri Music Educators Association conference. He has directed honor jazz ensembles in Missouri and Kansas and the Colorado All-State jazz ensemble. He also directed the Colorado Jazz Workshop Monday Night Band for five years and the University of Colorado at Boulder Jazz Ensemble I at an IAJE Conference. Pagán frequently appears as an adjudicator at jazz festivals and faculty member at summer jazz camps throughout the region. In 2019 and '20 he was pianist for the Kansas Music Edicators Association Jazz Ensemble, which performed one of his charts. He continues to play the bass as a secondary instrument.
A partial list of people with whom Michael Pagán has performed: