Biography

Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Fryman Canyon, Los Angeles (Photo: Andy Ben)

Multi-instrumentalist, arranger, composer, music director, producer, DJ, and educator based in his hometown of Los Angeles, California. In addition to all things music, Miguel is recognized as a community leader and has organized numerous special uplifting events throughout the US. Miguel also does outreach concerts and talks for adults and kids at various schools, social facilities and venues, and volunteers in hospitals and resting homes, where he is able to inspire and enliven audiences with his unique, insightful point of view and beautiful, highly nuanced sound.

The depth and range of Atwood-Ferguson’s work is vast, having contributed to over 300 recordings, and countless live concerts. He has a rare gift and serious devotion and dedication to developing it; he effortlessly bridges diverse genres and generations of musical and cultural elements into cohesive and magical presentations. And it’s his ability to connect with music of all styles, forms and traditions that sets him apart. Miguel’s interests are many and he performs, tours and records with ensembles ranging from electronica, avant-garde, jazz, classical, hip-hop, and pop to name a few from countries all around the world. Many long years of practice and study prepared him for what is now a life of constant composing, conducting, performing, improvising, and producing.

Miguel’s formal violin lessons started at age 4, though he recalls experiencing music as early as in utero. “I experienced live music while my mom was pregnant with me when she went to weekly music nights with my dad at their friend’s house.” The child of two musical parents – his mother a special-education teacher, his father a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and accomplished recording artist – Miguel was raised in a creative environment, growing up in the famed artist district of Topanga Canyon.  With so many influences to mention, both musical and other, Miguel thinks back fondly on what he listened to growing up, “Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, opera, country music, Motown, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles . . .” In addition he listens to and finds great inspiration from, “My friends and colleagues, John Coltrane, Ravel, Duke Ellington, Gil Evans, Hermeto Pascoal, Fritz Kreisler, L. Subramaniam, Zbigniew Seifert, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Bartok, Debussy, Brahms, Stravinsky, Charlie Parker, McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Thelonious Monk, Frederick Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams, Woody Shaw, Eric Dolphy, Larry Young, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Sam Cooke, Miles Davis, Ray Charles, J Dilla, James Brown, Kenny Kirkland, Dave Holland, Brad Mehldau, Mulgrew Miller, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Michael Jackson, James Jamerson, etc . . .”

Currently working on various solo, duet, ensemble, and concept records where he is the lead artist, Miguel also makes time to write and perform arrangements for a wide array of artists and bands as well as leading his groups Quartetto Fantastico, The Miguel Atwood-Ferguson Ensemble and specialized orchestral configurations. It is his goal “to build toward having an orchestra that plays music from across the globe with international musicians of Peace and Love.” All of this was set up by a career as a session violist and budding symphonic composer that started in his days as a junior high-school student at Paul Revere Middle School when The Pacific Palisades Symphony performed his ‘Serenade in D Major’. (By the age of 17, Miguel had already been the feature of segments on KCET and the Disney Channel, highlighting his incredible talents. It was clear then, that with focus and determination, Miguel would reach great heights, and when he presented his final project as a high school senior at Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences, his first viola concerto ‘In Memoriam Of Love Lost’, his path was all the brighter.) He would move on from Crossroads to the University of Southern California, where he graduated with a degree in Viola Performance, and a growing resumé.

As a violist, Miguel appeared with Big Boi (Outkast) at the 2004 Kid’s Choice Awards on Nickelodeon, with Rihanna on the Jay Leno Show and at the 2007 American Music Awards, with Christina Aguilera on her 2006 MTV special ‘Back to Basics’, and with John Legend and Kirk Franklin at the 2008 BET Gospel Celebration. He also played with Shakira, Wyclef Jean and Gnarls Barkley at the 2007 Grammy Awards, with Hall & Oates on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Extra, and The Megan Mullally Show, and with Pink at the 2008 American Music Awards. In 2009, Miguel was on the season finale of ‘America’s Got Talent’, backing up Susan Boyle.  Miguel recently returned to CBS studios again to perform on ‘American Idol’ backing up Lana Del Rey and to Warner Bros. to perform with both Father John Misty and Mikal Cronin on The Conan O’Brien Show.

In orchestral settings, Miguel has joined the likes of John Williams, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Michael Tilson Thomas, Zubin Mehta, Emanuel Ax, James Galway, Sarah Chang, Feist, Roy Hargrove, Francisco Aguabella, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, Wayne Shorter, Ray Brown, Brad Mehldau, Guru (Gang Starr), Vince Mendoza, and Henry Mancini among many others. Recently, through a NEA grant, Miguel was commissioned to write a concerto for Flute, Viola, and Jazz Orchestra which was premiered to great acclaim.

As a studio musician, he has recorded for will.i.am, Dr. Dre, Flying Lotus, Raphael Saadiq, Seu Jorge, Heath Ledger, John Cale, Swizz Beatz, Eddie Murphy, Barry Manilow, Kimbra, David Foster, Joss Stone, Bilal, Michael Bublé, Marisa Monte, Common, Randy Jackson, Travis Tritt, and on Ray Charles’ Grammy winning album ‘Genius Loves Company’.

As a featured soloist, Miguel has performed and/or recorded alongside Hubert Laws, Billy Higgins, Brian Blade, Alphonse Mouzon, Airto Moreira, Buster Williams, Saul Williams, Billy Childs, Henry Grimes, Patrice Rushen, Ndugu Chancler, Hiatus Kaiyote, Bennie Maupin, Ravi Coltrane, The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, and Eric Harland.

Miguel has had the honor of being a featured part of the personal bands of Flying Lotus, Austin Peralta, Dwight Trible, Mulatu Astatke, Arthur Verocai, Bebel Gilberto, Azar Lawrence, Wadada Leo Smith, Carlos Niño, Mia Doi Todd, Nate Morgan, Zach Harmon, Vardan Ovsepian, and Chris Abani among many others.

Miguel has performed at top venues throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, South America, Australia, and Europe. In addition, he’s been a featured performer on the internationally acclaimed BBC Radio 1 program ‘Worldwide’ in London hosted by Gilles Peterson and on Los Angeles-based stations KUSC 91.5fm, KCRW 89.9fm and KPFK 90.7fm. Miguel has also been a part of 3 TED Conference events as a performer, composer and guest programmer.

One of Miguel’s most incredible gifts is the ability to record ‘orchestras’ of himself, and was coined “The One Man Orchestra” by will.i.am. He composes for violin, viola, cello, and sometimes basses, piano, keyboards and percussion, and plays all of the instruments. A major part of his livelihood has been doing just that for esteemed people such as Oprah Winfrey, who in 2011, chose to use ‘Own It’, a song Miguel made with will.i.am for the Black Eyed Peas album ‘The Beginning’, as the theme music for the main promo of her new TV Network ‘OWN’.

Another of Miguel’s great achievements was in 2009 when he composed and conducted the historic ‘Suite for Ma Dukes’ concert in Los Angeles leading over 60 musicians, whom he chose and contracted, in tribute to the transcendent modern hip-hop producer J Dilla. As composer and conductor that legendary February night, Miguel featured special guests Bilal, Posdnous (De La Soul), Talib Kweli, Karriem Riggins, Stephen ‘Thundercat’ Bruner, and more. The Miguel Atwood-Ferguson Ensemble has featured guest appearances by Sly Stone, Shuggie Otis, George Clinton, Seu Jorge, Leon Ware, Flying Lotus, Chris ‘Daddy’ Dave, Marie Daulne (Zap Mama), J Rocc, Coco (Quadron), Georgia Anne Muldrow, Austin Peralta, James Gadson, Mayer Hawthorne, José James, Meshell Ndegeocello, Aloe Blacc, Pharoahe Monch, Nai Palm (Hiatus Kaiyote), Deantoni Parks and Ndugu Chancler, among others.

In 2014, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson’s debut record will be released on the Los Angeles indie label ‘Brainfeeder’.