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Family musicians inspire percussion professor's passion for rhythm

by Joanne Nesbit10/11/2016

It could have been genetics. Maybe just serendipity.

Whatever it was that lit the flame of rhythm and improvisation, Michael Gould, professor of music (percussion) at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, strives to start or fan such a fire in his students.

He first picked up the drum sticks his dad used in high school, had some formal lessons, worked his way into his sixth-grade jazz band, and sneaked into Chicago jazz clubs with an aunt to see stars like Buddy Rich and Louie Bellson. And that fire burned even stronger when his 99-year-old grandfather played a drum solo for him while his aunt sang "Bye Bye Blackbird."

His advanced training started while waiting for a friend at the University of Illinois. Gould found an open percussion practice room and couldn't resist taking up the sticks. When challenged by a professor as to whether he was a student or auditioning, Gould said he wasn't either because he wanted to apply but was dissuaded from the advice of his high school counselor.

The professor said he was good enough and took him to the school's dean. After admittance, Gould earned a Bachelor of Music at the University of Illinois, a Master of Music at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Kentucky.

Gould divides his time between SMTD and the Residential College, LSA, where he also is a professor.

It doesn't matter which location a student attends his class; Gould starts each new session relieving the students of all electronic devices so they won't be "distracted." He also begins class with a stress test from zero (the Buddha) to 10 (the Reaper). After two-hours of drumming he asks the question again and 99 percent of the time the students smile and record lower numbers.

His students leave with skills that have allowed them to perform on late-night TV shows, at festivals around the world, win Grammys, compose for National Public Radio, in addition to performance and recording success.

An advocate of what he calls the GAP, or Gould Assistance Program, Gould says he will help out any former student that asks for or needs it. "I don't stop helping them just because they graduate."

As a scholar, performer and teacher, Gould composes and performs music around the world, often collaborating with engineers, material scientists, painters, poets, dancers, athletes and business professionals.

One of his latest projects, "Remember Me," was conceived while he fought a 12-year battle with a debilitating disease. Using 16 poems by retired Residential College Professor Ken Mikolowski as source material, he created music and artwork that explores outmoded equipment, materials and sounds delving into his own experiences of loss, illness and ultimately recovery.

"My interest was to translate the poems into sight and sound," Gould has said. "As a drummer, I can create a composite pattern or groove from three to four separate rhythms all synchronized precisely that ultimately form a whole. I tried to do this with the artwork and music."

Gould's passion for rhythm cannot be curtailed by the routines of daily life. He has partnered with Henry Pollack, professor emeritus of geological sciences, on an art installation titled "A World Without Ice."

The piece, focusing on both poles and addresses issues of climate change and inspired a trip to Antarctica. However, the recording of dripping ice onto drum heads was more local, involving Gould's home kitchen and studio.



What moment in the classroom stands out as the most memorable?

When non-music majors have no experience with music or a musical instrument, and enjoy the process toward performing an hourlong concert at the end of the semester. They become lifelong supporters of the arts!

What can't you live without?

Laughter, space and silence.

What is your favorite spot on campus?

Literally placing my hands on the bells while they are played at Burton Tower...looking at student art in the Art School for a break.

What inspires you?

The sound that visual art makes in my mind and the art that sound creates.

What are you currently reading?

I love spy novels but am addicted to The New York Times - can't start my day without it.

What was the biggest/greatest influence on your career path?

My mom and her identical twin. My mom was a special education teacher and I learned a tremendous amount from her just observing her interactions with her students and my aunt for never being afraid to take me places to get inspired about art and music.


past news

November 2015
October 2014

Anisha Nandi, from The Michigan Daily, sat down with professor Michael Gould to talk about his "Remember Me" show. The video can be seen on the Michigan Daily website.   10/01/2014

July 2014

Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Dance, Peter Sparling is a recipient of a Distinguished University Professorship. Effective September 1, Sparling will be a Rudolf Arnheim Distinguished University Professor. This appointment is one of the highest honors the University can bestow upon a faculty member.   07/18/2014

Professor Patricia Hall will be presenting her paper, "Alban Berg's 'Guilt' by Association to the Music, Censorship and Meaning in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union conference at the Colburn School in Los Angeles this August.   07/12/2014

April 2014

Prof. Ed Sarath Receives U-M's "Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award" 04/21/2014

Professor Kuster Wins Prestigious OPERA America Grant 04/04/2014

Professor Mukherji to Speak in London this July 04/04/2014

Áine Heneghan, Assistant Professor of Music Theory, will present her research on Schoenberg's Formenlehre at the following conferences, all in 2014: Music Theory Midwest (Appleton, WI), the Eighteenth Biennial International Conference on Nineteenth-Century Music (Toronto, Canada), EuroMAC (Leuven, Belgium), and the annual meeting of the Society for Music Theory (Milwaukee).   04/01/2014

March 2014

U-M UpstART Festival Begins 03/31/2014

A Multimedia Installation on Climate Change 03/28/2014

Wayne Petty, Associate Professor of Music Theory, will read his paper, "Some Multimovement Designs in C. P. E. Bach's Late Keyboard Sonatas" at the Seventh EuroMac conference, which will gather scholars from all music theory societies in Europe in Leuven, Belgium, from 17 to 21 September, 2014.  An adaptation of the paper will be presented to the Society for Music Theory in Milwaukee in the Fall of 2014.   03/26/2014

Walter Everett, Professor of Music Theory, announces the publication of Los Beatles como músicos: De Revolver de la Antología (Buenos Aires: Eterna Cadencia, 2013), the Spanish translation of his The Beatles as Musicians: Revolver through the Anthology (Oxford University Press, 1999).   03/21/2014

Celebration of Professor George Shirley's 80th Birthday 03/19/2014

Prof. Korsyn presents keynote in The Hague, serves in scholarly appointments 03/14/2014

December 2013

In January 2014 Professor Wayne Petty will read the paper, "Wilhelm Fischer and the Fortspinnung-type Sonata Exposition," at the Seventh International Conference on Music Theory in Tallin and Pärnu, Estonia.  The conference theme is "Musical Form: Mapping the Territories."   12/17/2013

AmeriGrove II, edited by Professor Charles Garrett, is published 12/13/2013

November 2013

Gosman Presents Beethoven Research 11/16/2013

Department of Music Theory Announces Visiting Speakers of 2014 11/16/2013

Everett Launches Beatles Observances 11/16/2013

Interarts professor Holly Hughes presents The Dog and Pony Show (Bring Your Own Pony) in a webcast performance at the Chicago Humanities Festival on Mon., Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m. Her newest performance work, the piece offers a poetic and comic meditation on midlife crises in the key of canine.   11/01/2013

September 2013

SMTD Welcomes New Faculty 09/27/2013

Ramon Satyendra, associate professor of music theory, has published his essay, "Morphisms of Generalized Interval Systems and PR-Groups" (co-authored with Thomas Fiore and Thomas Noll), in Journal of Mathematics and Music 7/1.   09/20/2013

Alan Gosman Co-authors New Beethoven Book 09/06/2013

July 2013

Professor Ashley Lucas and three Theatre & Drama students are engaged in an intensive exchange program with UniRio in Rio de Janiero, Brazil this summer, where they are blogging about their experiences in UniRio's prison arts program and more.   07/12/2013

June 2013

SMTD Mourns Professor Emeritus Erling Bengtsson 06/10/2013

Holly Hughes, professor of interarts performance in the Department of Theatre & Drama, was profiled in Hyperallergic, an online magazine about art and culture, which included a Q&A with Hughes about her role as one of the "NEA Four."   06/06/2013

Music theory professor Walter Everett's role as an expert on the music of the Beatles was the subject of an article in      06/06/2013

Hall presents in Copenhagen 06/03/2013

May 2013

Robert Hurst, associate professor of jazz and contemporary improvisation, was featured in a Q&A article in on the occasion of the release of his new CD, BOB: a palindrome.   05/01/2013

November 2012
November 2011
February 2010

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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower