School of Music, Theatre and Dance at the University of Michigan


Michael Malis is a composer, pianist, and music educator based in Detroit MI. Noted for his “jaw dropping display of improvisational power” (All About Jazz), Malis is a multi-faceted artist, performing as a jazz musician, composing for the concert stage, and spearheading multidisciplinary collaborations.

As a recording artist, he has 11 releases as a leader or co-leader. 2022’s From Darkness We Awaken, featuring chamber-improvising ensemble Virago (who commissioned the piece) was released on Brisbane Australia-based MADE NOW MUSIC. It was premiered in an “arresting” and “ambitious” concert at the Detroit Institute of Arts ( in August 2022, alongside a new solo piano work Hold Tightly To Your Vision of How Things Could Be and a new ensemble arrangement of his Imperfect Intervals suite, featuring video projections by visual artist Zara Teicher.

As a composer, Malis has been commissioned by Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings, Chamber Music Society of Detroit, Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, Detroit Composers’ Project, Virago, Hole in the Floor, and others. His piece for piano and cello, Coda, was premiered by Detroit Symphony Orchestra principle cellist Wei Yu in 2018.

Malis and saxophonist Marcus Elliot, who join forces under the duo known as “Balance,” have been called “among the most compelling Detroit jazz musicians of their generation” (Jazz From Detroit, University of Michigan Press.) As a duo, they’ve taken on ambitious collaborations, including their April 2019 performance piece with former Detroit poet laureate Bill Harris, I Got To Keep Moving which featured drummer Gerald Cleaver. The duo’s 2017 eponymous album was praised by the Detroit Metro Times as “contemporary jazz of the highest order, a benchmark for where the genre can go.” Their 2022 release, Conjure, is forthcoming on Two Rooms Records.

As a pianist, Malis has shared the stage with a diverse array of musicians, including Marcus Belgrave, Gerald Cleaver, Jaribu Shahid, John Lindberg, William Hooker, A. Spencer Barefield, Tyshawn Sorey, Brandee Younger, J.D. Allen, and Marion Hayden. He has performed at the Yokohama Jazz Promenade (Yokohama, Japan), the Kennedy Center, Birdland (NYC), and The Stone (NYC).