Program Biography | Michel Camilo is a native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He studied for 13 years at the National Conservatory, and at the age of 16 became a member of the National Symphony Orchestra of the Dominican Republic (NSODR). He moved to New York in 1979, where he studied at Mannes College and at The Juilliard School.
A pianist with a brilliant technique and a composer who flavors his tunes with Caribbean rhythms and jazz harmonies, his composition Why Not! titled an album by Paquito D'Rivera , and the Manhattan Transfer won a Grammy Award (1983) with its vocal version of the piece. Mr. Camilo titled his own debut album Why Not! And followed it with Suntan/Michel Camilo In Trio. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1985 with his trio and toured Europe that same year.
Back in Santo Domingo, he conducted the NSODR in a classical program that included his own Emmy Award-winning The Goodwill Games Theme. He was also musical director of the Dominican Republic's Heineken Jazz Festival, a post he held until 1992. His first three albums, Michel Camilo, On Fire, and On the Other Hand reached the top of the nationwide radio play charts.
Since then his recordings on various labels have included Rendezvous, One More Once, Thru My Eyes, and Spain-Michel Camilo & Tomatito. As a composer, pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque and Dizzy Gillespie have recorded Mr. Camilo's Caribe. The Labèques premiered Rhapsody for Two Pianos and Orchestra, a commission by the Philharmonia Orchestra.
Michel composed the score for the award winning European film Amo Tu Cama Rica, and for Los Peores Años de Nuestra Vida and Two Much. Mr. Camilo has been a featured soloist, arranger and composer with the Danish Radio Big Band, and he toured as part of a three-piano ensemble with the Labèque sisters. He has appeared as soloist with the Atlanta Symphony; Cleveland Orchestra; National Symphony Orchestra (NSO); Copenhagen Philharmonic; BBC Symphony Orchestra; National Symphony Orchestra (Dominican Republic), the Puerto Rico, Queens; Gran Canaria Philharmonic, Murcia, Málaga, RTVE, and Barcelona (Spain) symphonies; and the Carnegie Hall Big Band. The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) selected him as co-artistic director (with Leonard Slatkin) of the first Latin-Caribbean Music Festival at the Kennedy Center, where he also performed with his Trio and his Big Band and had the world premiere of his Concerto for Piano & Orchestra, commissioned by the NSO and conducted by Leonard Slatkin.
Mr. Camilo has also performed at the Royal Albert Hall (BBC Proms), Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall and has appeared elsewhere in New York at the Blue Note, Beacon Theater, Radio City Music Hall and Avery Fisher Hall. He performed at the White House in an all-star program celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Newport Jazz Festival, broadcast nationwide by PBS as part of In Performance At The White House, and on NPR's A Jazz Piano Christmas, hosted by Tony Bennett. Mr. Camilo regularly tours the Caribbean; Europe; South, Central and North America; Israel and Japan. He produced and arranged the award-winning album Lorquiana-Poemas for renowned Spanish singer Ana Belén, and performed a series of solo piano recitals as part of Copenhagen's Cultural Capital of Europe festival.
Besides performing his own works, Mr. Camilo has performed Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue and Piano Concerto in F, as well as Ravel's Piano Concerto in G on several occasions. He also gives duo concerts with Flamenco guitarist Tomatito, winning a Latin Grammy Award (2000) for their album Spain. Mr. Camilo is featured among the artists in Calle 54, a film about Latin jazz by Academy Award winning director Fernando Trueba. His Classical CD for DECCA features him with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin performing his Concerto for Piano & Orchestra and his Suite for Piano, Strings & Harp.
In March 2002, TELARC released Triangulo his Grammy nominated Jazz Trio recording. In August 2003, TELARC released Michel Camilo - Live at the Blue Note his first live album. Among his awards is the Knight of the Heraldic Order of Christopher Columbus and the Silver Cross of the Order of Duarte, Sanchez & Mella from the Dominican Government. The Duke Ellington School of the Arts created the Michel Camilo Piano Scholarship, which is offered to a piano student selected by the music faculty. Berklee College of Music awarded Mr. Camilo an Honorary Doctorate in Music.