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Faculty Directory

Recorded Music

Michael Whalen

Michael Whalen
Instructor, Recorded Music


The Soundtrack Auteur


For Michael Whalen, the passionate pursuit of music represents his life story, not merely the contents of a resume. The evocative works he composes and produces have become a part of our lives too, through his remarkably diverse ventures in television, films, theater, multi-media and on his own recordings. So far, Michael has more than 500 television scores and dozens of feature and short film credits to his name. He created the uplifting opening theme to the ABC News morning show “Good Morning America,” music for the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” Martha Stewart and the news magazine “Inside Edition.” He is a two-time Emmy® award-winner and a multiple Emmy®-nominated composer, music supervisor and sound designer. His most recent Emmy was in 2008 for PBS’ acclaimed 8-hour “America at a Crossroads” series. You might have also heard his sprawling score to the acclaimed four-hour 2005 PBS series “Slavery and the Making of America” or his music for the inspirational 2004 indie film hit “What the Bleep Do We Know?” His music is currently featured on over a dozen shows including the CBS/P & G soap opera, “As the World Turns.” He's also put out a shingle as a music supervisor. Michael is currently working on the forthcoming feature film “Veronika Decides to Die” starring Sarah Michelle Gellar based on the novel by Paulo Coelho. Other supervision work includes the forthcoming theatrical documentary “Brothers on the Line” and the just finished television film “Hit To Right,” the short film “Napoleonic” (original songs by Dr. John).

If you happened to miss any or all of those, you've undoubtedly heard Michael's work in one of the literally thousands of commercials he scored for clients like Apple, Coca-Cola, Disney and Nike. But he's not just a composer-for-hire: Michael is also building a significant discography -- 22 CDs to date -- as a solo recording artist, working in pop, jazz, classical, electronic and those fascinating, unclassifiable spaces in between. Released in January of 2009, “The Tree of Life” (Spout/MWM), is a free download of ambient compositions inspired by the awe-inspiring visits that he has made to the Redwood forests of central California. Also coming in 2009, “The Road of Ghosts”, a recording where Michael’s ambient, film scoring and classical voices meet together on the same project at the same time along with one new element - the boy can sing! Stay tuned for this one. Also coming, “Dancing in Black and White” - a collection of Michael’s best solo piano recordings.

Key to Michael's success has been his love of collaboration - with his fellow performers, filmmakers and the assorted creative thinkers who get involved in his projects. The film/television composer's task, he knows, is to embellish someone else's vision while trying to create something musically he can call his own. For Michael, "Scoring is about trust and relationships…The process of going back and forth with a client is about communication. Sometimes clients come to the studio and we run cues and get feedback on the spot. I enjoy that the most, and I think that clients enjoy the process of being 'hands on' with me."

Michael also goes back to school as an adjunct professor at CCNY (City College of New York) and New York University. Does this guy sleep? But, as we said before, you probably know him already. It's Michael Whalen's music that often keeps you glued to your television set. That causes your heart to swell in a darkened movie theater. That draws you closer to the radio. Our world moves to his melodies...Stay tuned for much, much more.