It's been said that Michael Harley is "... one of the leading bassoonists in America, and perhaps even the world, though he's no Sergio Azzolini" by both of his parents. Less discriminating critics have called his performances “spectacular” (Washington Post) and “exquisite” (Columbus Dispatch).
Mike enjoys a diverse career as a teacher, performer, and music advocate. A dedicated teacher, he is Associate Professor of Bassoon at the University of South Carolina (Columbia, SC). In addition to bassoon, he teaches courses in American music, coaches chamber music, and is artistic director of the award-winning Southern Exposure New Music Series. Southern Exposure, which produces four free yearly concerts, has presented the regional debut of some of the world's most acclaimed artists and ensembles, including the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Brooklyn Rider, Roomful of Teeth, Eighth Blackbird, the JACK and Calder string quartets, Imani Winds, and sitar virtuoso Kartik Seshadri.
Mike also taught full-time at Ohio University, Wright State University, and his alma mater, Goshen College, a Mennonite liberal arts school in northern Indiana. In these positions and at UofSC he is grateful to have gotten experience doing a little bit of everything: he started and directed a wind ensemble, conducted musical theater, directed a collegium musicum (early music group), and taught courses in music theory, ear training, keyboard musicianship, contemporary music, music history and literature, bassoon pedagogy and repertoire, and woodwind methods.
Mike is a founding member of the chamber orchestra Alarm Will Sound, called “new music luminaries” and “one of the most vital and original ensembles on the American musical scene” (New York Times). AWS performs regularly at some of the world's great venues, and has done educational residencies at universities and other institutions throughout the U.S., including Harvard, Duke, Stanford, MIT, Colorado-Boulder, Lawrence University, Dickinson College, and Bowling Green State University. Its members were artists-in-residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2013-14. Mike has worked with and premiered pieces by many of today’s most distinguished composers, including Pulitzer-winners John Adams, John Luther Adams, Aaron Jay Kernis, David Lang, Roger Reynolds, Steve Reich, and Charles Wuorinen; and Reginald Bain, Marcos Balter, Derek Bermel, Oscar Bettison, David Biedenbender, Harrison Birtwistle, King Britt, Caleb Burhans, Viet Cuong, Donnacha Dennehy, Christopher Dietz, Paul Dooley, Dave Douglas, Stefan Freund, David K. Garner, Michael Gordon, Michael Harrison, Takuma Itoh, Scott Johnson, Jesse Jones, Amy Beth Kirsten, Hannah Lash, David T. Little, Fang Man, Matt Marks, Meredith Monk, Nico Muhly, John Orfe, Michael Pisaro, Wolfgang Rihm, John Fitz Rogers, Carl Schimmel, Steven Snowden, Kate Soper, Augusta Read Thomas, Ken Ueno, and Dan Visconti. Most recently, he gave the world premiere of Nico Muhly’s Reliable Sources, a concerto for bassoon and orchestral winds / wind ensemble. A versatile musician, Mike has been featured with AWS as a bassoonist, singer, and pianist. He can be heard on the Nonesuch, Cantaloupe, New Amsterdam, Innova, New Focus, Bedroom Community, Tzadik, Centaur, and Sweetspot record labels.
As a recitalist, chamber, and orchestral musician, Mike has played in diverse venues on five continents, ranging from nightclubs and bars (Le Poisson Rouge and the Roxy in NYC) to Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Kennedy Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Library of Congress, the Barbican (London), Musiekgebouw aan ‘t IJ (Amsterdam), Town Hall in Johannesburg, South Africa, Glinka Hall (Moscow), and the Hermitage Theatre (St. Petersburg); and with artists including the indie rock group Dirty Projectors, the jazz trio Medeski, Martin and Wood, percussionist / conductor Tyshawn Sorey, Dance Heginbotham, the orchestras of Charleston, Columbus, Fort Wayne, South Bend, Augusta (GA), Rock Hill (NC), and the Long Bay Symphony (Myrtle Beach). He was acting principal bassoon of the South Carolina Philharmonic in 2015-16, and plays regularly with that orchestra. Chamber music adventures include the pioneering bassoon groups Dark in the Song and the Rushes Ensemble, formed to perform and record Michael Gordon’s concert-length work for seven bassoons, Rushes. Festivals and conference performances include Lucca Opera Theater (Italy), Piccolo Spoleto, Music on the Hill Rhode Island, Mizzou New Music, Kent Blossom, the 2018 and 2013 International College Music Society conferences in Vancouver, BC and Buenos Aires, Argentina, and numerous International Double Reed Society conferences. Mike has served on the faculties of the Interlochen Arts Camp in Interlochen, MI and the Saarburger Serenaden International Music Festival and School in Saarburg, Germany.
Mike has degrees from the Eastman School of Music (D.M.A.), where he was awarded the Performer’s Certificate, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (M.M.), and Goshen College (B.A., English and music). His teachers include John Hunt, William Winstead, Gwendolyn Rose, and Sharon Trent. He grew up in northern Indiana and Michigan, and now lives in Columbia, SC, where he is hopelessly outnumbered and consistently outmaneuvered by five lovely ladies: his wife, flutist Jennifer Parker-Harley, daughters Ella and Lucia, dog Skyler, and cat Yuki.