A pianist with a brilliant technique and a composer that flavors his tunes with Afro-Caribbean rhythms and jazz harmonies Mr. Camilo's musical language is an expressive and exciting way of combining his musical heritage with a rich, intelligent use of harmonic textures, jazz roots and his superb piano technique. His music is mainstream jazz with a Latin tinge first and foremost, propelled by an infectious, contemporary sense of swing that reflects his joyously effervescent personality.
Michel Camilo was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, he studied for 13 years at the National Conservatory earning a degree of "Professorship in Music" and at the age of 16 became a member of the National Symphony Orchestra of his country. He moved to New York in 1979 where he continued his studies at Mannes and Juilliard School of Music. Since his 1985 Carnegie Hall debut he has become a prominent figure performing regularly at festivals throughout the United States, Europe, Israel, Japan, Asia, South America and the Caribbean.
His eighteen recordings to date have been recognized with a Grammy award for his “Live at the Blue Note” (Telarc) album, an Emmy award, two Latin Grammy awards, two Grammy nominations and two Premios de la Música (Spain). He has recorded in Solo, Duo, Trio, Sextet, Big Band and Symphony Orchestras, as well as film soundtracks. He moves with ease between the worlds of Jazz, Latin, Flamenco, and Classical music.
Highlights include a five year tenure as Musical Director of the Heineken Jazz Festival (Dominican Republic), president of the jury at the Montreux Jazz Solo Piano competition, featured in the award winning Latin Jazz documentary film Calle 54, JazzWeek Artist of the Year (2004), Artist in Residence at the 2007 Klavier Piano Festival Ruhr, voted among the Top 10 Jazz Pianists of the Year at the 69th Annual DownBeat® Readers Poll, Meet the Composer and NYSCA composition grants, co-Artistic Director of the first Latin-Caribbean Music Festival at the Kennedy Center performing the world premiere of his Piano Concerto with the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin (commissioned by the NSO), and the world premiere of his Rhapsody for Two Pianos and Orchestra (commissioned by the Philharmonia Orchestra) performed by Katia & Marielle Labèque at the Royal Festival Hall.
Guest engagements with prestigious symphony orchestras include the National (NSO), Cleveland, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Atlanta, Gulbenkian, Madrid, Barcelona, Nacional (Spain), Navarra, Cadaques, Seville, Bilbao, Gran Canaria, New Japan, NorrlandsOperan, Nacional (Dominican Republic), RTVE, Puerto Rico, Queens, Long Island, Copenhagen Philharmonic and Indiana University Philharmonic, among others. He has recorded with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (Decca/Universal) and with the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra (Telarc).
Mr. Camilo’s honors include Honorary Doctorates from Berklee College of Music (Boston), Universidad Nacional Pedro Henriquez Ureña, UTESA University of Santiago, as well as an Honorary Professorship from Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and the “Crystal Apple” from the City of New York. The Dominican Government awarded him its highest civilian honors: the Silver Cross of the Order of Duarte, Sanchez & Mella, and Knight of the Heraldic Order of Christopher Columbus.
The Duke Ellington School of the Arts created the “Michel Camilo Piano Scholarship” which helps talented inner-city students attend college. Mr Camilo created the “Michel Camilo Scholarship,” which helps Dominican students come to study jazz at Berklee College of Music.