“simply bliss with heart.”
- Pop Matters
Born in the San Francisco Bay Area to Peruvian composer/pianist, Augusto A. Amador and Austrian mother Margaret Amador, Michelle Amador was trained in classical piano from age 6-16 and wrote her first composition at the age of 12.
She studied choral voice and acting at Menlo School, performing in musicals and when called on, accompanying the vocal choir. She attended the University of Southern California to pursue a BFA in acting. Before completing her final two years of the university, Michelle took a semester off and in that time expanded her writing skills by studying under her father. During that time she wrote and composed a full-length musical entitled American God which examined the experience of being a first-generation American and the questions/challenges posed when recognizing American social values as an unspoken religion.
After graduating from USC in 1998, Michelle 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. From 1999-2001, Michelle studied jazz piano and arranging under the late pianist/composer/arranger Don Haas (Willie Nelson/Stan Kenton/Benny Goodman) as well as continuing to study technique with her father.
In 2001, she recorded her first modern jazz/latin influenced album of original works, Composition, which she self-released. She also began mixed medium performance collaboration with hmDance, composing and premiering “I Could Be In Any Room” at San Francisco’s Dance Mission Theater.
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, CA. Of Michelle’s writing skills, Mr. Williams commented “I was impressed by her musical maturity…her compositions are so original and innovative that they demand the ear’s attention.” In 2002, Michelle also wrote her first score for an independent short film, Make a Living, by Wallace Scott Robinson. That same year, hmDance commissioned Michelle to arrange selected pieces from Henry Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas for mixed medium performance/premiere at the Cowell Theater in San Francisco.
In 2004, Michelle was again commissioned by hmDance to compose/perform at ODC Theater in San Francisco as part of the dance company’s 10th anniversary season. The San Francisco Chronicle called Michelle’s performance “silken-voiced.” She was also selected as one of sixty participants (out of 2,000 applicants worldwide) to participate in the renowned Red Bull Music Academy, a two-week electronic music symposium that brings together musical minds from around the globe together with established professionals. There, she met and collaborated with: Osunlade, Zed Bias and Lars Dorsch of Karma, Om’Mas Keith and fellow peers DJ Eurok and Graeme Blevins to create “In & Out” and “Al Ghetto” which were broadcast immediately on BBC Radio 1 Xtra under the group name Roma All-Stars. She also toured with Southern California with Patrick Cress’ Telepathy where she performed her arrangement of “Merciful” by Nils Petter Molvaer.
In 2005, Michelle was invited 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, which served as a forum for artists who were pushing the boundaries of jazz either through traditional instrumentation or by adding electronic elements. There, she premiered her self-released her 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.
In 2006, Michelle performed a special concert of material by Wayne Shorter to which she had written lyrics, as well as a concert of latin jazz works by her father. She was also selected to perform as part of Under the Radar series at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. There, she debuted as a solo performer accompanying herself on rhodes and using a sampler, and premiering three new works: “Go Around,” “Alcohol,” and “Line,” a bi-lingual piece examining the pervasiveness of racial categorization and societal focus on black and white in America with lyrics “I am not black or white…mi nombre, media Peruana. Si no que miras en mi piel, es en mi sangre. Es en mis huesos y corazon.”
That same year, her collaborative works with Zed Bias and Karma were featured on two albums: Rainbow Soul Vol. 1 (Phuture Lounge Records, UK) compilation featuring her collaborative song “Higher,” and Latenight Daydreaming (Compost Records, Germany) featuring her collaborative songs “Are We?” and “Home.” PopMatters wrote, “American Michelle Amador fronts the plaintive, acoustic guitar-led “Are We?” as well as one of Latenight Daydreaming‘s best songs, “Home.” Opening with a gently melodic guitar line and shimmering vibes, it features a jazz-inflected Amador celebrating 'Sweet hope in the life of a new day Bright eyes of a brand new baby Sheer joy in the promise of maybe.' If this can’t convince you that everything’s going to be OK, nothing will. It’s bliss with heart.” In 2007, “Are We?” was re-released part of two compilations: Freshly Composted Vol. 1 (Compost Records, Germany) in and Room Weekender 15th Anniversary Special Edition (Village Again Records, Japan).
In the fall of 2007, Michelle 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. She also performed at the Sheppard Gallery in Reno, NV, to premiere new collaborative works as part of “Earworms,” a visual/sound installation created with bassist/composer Lisa Mezzacappa, singer/songwriter Katy Stephan, and artist Deborah Aschheim. The installation with recorded works premiered at the Laumeiere Sculpture Park in St. Louis Missouri and the Pasadena Museum of California Art in 2008. In April 2008, the single “Because of You” was followed by an exclusive Japanese release of a full album, Higher, also produced by Bias. Michelle also contributed her voice to the sound sample library used in each computer as part of the One Laptop Per Child program. On May 25, 2009, Michelle electronically released her Higher album globally, which was followed by an August 2009 CD release through Groove Distribution. In 2009, Michelle also released collaborative electronic singles: Miss Out with Yellowtail, and Does It and Buffalo with Computer Paul on BagPak Records. In 2014, Michelle self-release "How To Love." In 2017, one of her instrumental jazz compositions was featured on saxophonist Dayna Stephens' album "Gratitude" with band members Eric Harland, Brad Mehldau and Larry Grenadier.