Michelle Amador’s musical career is the result of a lifetime of familial influence, an exemplary education, and a desire to make the invisible visible through her music, vocal performance and words.
Born in the San Francisco Bay Area to a Peruvian composer/pianist and Austrian mother, Amador was trained in classical piano and wrote her first composition at age 12.
Amador studied choral voice and acting at Menlo School, and attended the University of Southern California to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts. After graduating in 1998, Amador continued to pursue music, studying solo jazz voice under award-winning jazz educator Roger Letson, and attending Stanford Jazz Workshop to study voice and jazz arranging.
She recorded her first modern jazz/latin influenced album of original works in 2001, “Composition,” which she self-released.
In 2002, legendary bassist Buster Williams (Herbie Hancock/Nancy Wilson) took notice of Michelle’s talent and premiered her instrumental composition, “Peace Prayer” at Yoshi’s Jazz Club, in Oakland, California.
In 2004, Amador was selected out of 2,000 applicants worldwide as one of 60 artists to participate in the Red Bull Music Academy, a two-week electronic music symposium that brings together musical minds from around the globe together with established professionals.
Amador was invited in 2005 to teach creative composition and vocal performance at the JazzSchool in Berkeley, CA. She also served as artistic director/creator/featured performer for Jazz Beyond, a then-new stage at the San Jose Jazz Festival. There, she premiered her self-released second album, “Michelle Amador & the True Believers,” which featured Michelle’s original jazz hybrid works for voice, tenor saxophone, acoustic bass, drums, keyboard, guitar and turntable.
As part of the Under the Radar series at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in 2006, she debuted as a solo performer, accompanying herself on Rhodes, using a sampler, and premiering three new works.
In the fall of 2007, Amador released a collaborative work, “Because of You” (Sick Trumpet Records, UK) co-written with Graeme Blevins, Dave Jones, and Tim Bulkley and produced by Zed Bias.
On May 25, 2009, Michelle electronically released her “Higher” album globally, which was followed by an August 2009 CD release through Groove Distribution.
2011 found Amador releasing the collection “Free E.P. of Live Recordings,” perhaps gearing up for her full-length 2014 release “How To Love,” featuring the titles “Light To See” and “Long Lost Favor.”
Michelle's instrumental compositions continued to be prized by jazz musicians with saxophonist and composer Dayna Stephens recording his arrangement of her work, "Amber is Falling (Red and Yellow)" featuring pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Larry Grenadier, and drummer Eric Harland in 2017.
In 2020, Amador will release “You Are Where You Belong,” an E.P. she recorded with producer and sound engineer Eli Crews (tUnE-yArDs, Questlove, Kathleen Hanna, Yoko Ono) at Figure8 recording in Brooklyn, NY. John Chors of Bear Call mastered the album. The songs will be accompanied by a series of music videos for which Amador will collaborate with other visual and digital artists.
In addition to lending a visual cue for each of the E.P.’s titles, the videos will also provide an additional artistic outlet for Amador, who said she has always been a visual thinker.
“I started making videos as a high schooler and in college and shortly after,” she explained. “In those days it was those heavy (cameras) you held on your shoulder with a VHS tape.
“I think I have always had visual imagery come to mind when I am writing music and I really wanted to expand the way that the music communicates,” she said.
Throughout her career, Amador has been the recipient of much praise. The San Francisco Chronicle describes her as “silken-voiced” while the San Jose Mercury News proclaims that “Michelle Amador is a new breed of musician…”
To borrow from the artist’s own vernacular, it seems as though Michelle Amador is indeed where she belongs.