Recordings by Students

created under Michael's supervision:


Michael Hauser


Bliss Slipping

is a tune I originally wrote 15 years ago.  More recently,
worked on the melody, form, and arrangement with Michael's
helpful input and feedback.  It was originally a somewhat
melancholy piece, played on piano and sung without words, 
but evolved into something more upbeat as I arranged it.  
I plan to write a lyric for it, and I'm thinking that it move back
in the other direction as I write a lyric and further develop
the melody around that.

I wrote this one in 2019 and then developed it further this past year with Michael's help.  It was always meant to have a lyric, and I've started on that just recently.  I'll adjust and develop the melody further around the lyric.

written as a quick exercise for Frank Martin's jazz
composition class in '20 and then, based
on Michael's feedback and suggestions,
extended it and evolved the melody, form, and 
arrangement.  The bird sounds at the beginning
and end are recordings of Arctic Terns.

about Michael . . .
Fascination with his parents' player piano led to early piano lessons and lifelong passions for both music and technology.  As a teen, he built his own music synthesizer and computer.  He studied jazz, electronic music, and computer science at UNT.  He has played piano and keyboards in various groups, composed and played on a number of albums, scored films and multimedia productions, musically directed live performances, fabricated multimedia installations, performed on live radio and TV, taught music privately, and developed and taught music classes.  His teachers have included: Michael Smolens & Frank Martin (piano/composition); Bonnie Hayes, Steve Seskin & Stephanie Bruce (songwriting); Mark Levine, Marcos Silva & Dick Hindman (piano). 



          Vivian Quinn Sayles (d. 2016)   



       Manchester Park   1:19 (bluesy swing)    
 Slow Livin'    2:11 (slow gospel)  
   Two Brewskies, Please
  0:49 (medium-up bop)       
                          To Romance
  3:08 (chamber / complete work)  
A Moment in Time 1912
  2:10 (even-eighths)        
Thank You, Isaac
  2:06 (jazz waltz)  


about Vivian . . .
Vivian studied theory, arranging, and composition with Michael from 1989-1994.  She produced a subsequent CD in 2000 called "California Celtic", melding her love of jazz and Celtic musics.  Unlike her first recording, she is heard here on piano and the personnel includes revered players Matt Eakle (flute), Jeremy Cohen (violin),
Mark Summer (cello), Davis Ramey (guitar), and Maureen Brennan (Irish harp).  



Michael Slater


Cosmetology performed by Michael Smolens

was conceived of after investigating many "rhythm changes" 
songs written by well-known jazz artists; i.e. a 32-bar form
that borrows the harmony from the George Gershwin classic,
"I Got Rhythm".  The primary focus of the coaching
was developing a more fully chromatic melody
that is consistent with the be-bop language typically used.
The piece was also written on the sax vs. the piano,
which explains the many challenges that it presents
to a keyboardist.

about Michael . . .
is a professional saxophonist and band leader who has performed jazz and funk styles in live and recording settings.  He studied both piano and improvisation on his main instrument with Michael for five years privately.   He also attended numerous workshopsand 12-week jazz ensemble classes that he co-structured with Michael.



Ethan Hamlin

My original demo for "The Policy" grew out of an experiment 
to compose a piece around four "in the round" vocal parts.
When I first brought it to Michael, it was a dense two-minute
vocal exercise.  He immediately heard the connection
to pattern-style music, and advised me to analyze
the work of notable composers such as Steve Reich.
Additionally, he challenged me to slow down the
rate of development on the piece dramatically, 
creating a sort of "strip tease" that gives the listener
time to digest the introduction of each new element
while retaining a sense of momentum and excitement.
We worked together extensively on the piece (by this point,
perhaps the most ambitious song I've ever composed),
with great attention to pacing and structural/textural contrast.
It's been a big stretch for me in terms of style and technique, 
but it's been very rewarding to explore this new stylistic space.

My lessons with Michael have been integral in expanding
my sense of harmonic and melodic possibility.
One particular "Eureka!" moment came when Michael
introduced me to the jazz ballad "Night Flower"
written by Lennie Lasher and made well known
by legendary jazz pianist Bill Evans.
The melodic language of this piece focuses mainly
on the upper extensions of each chord and doesn't reveal 
an immediate tonal center (both features were new for me),
yet the piece is totally coherent and emotionally evocative.
This expanded sense of possibility directly affected the chorus
for "Evil Habits".  While adjusting the key of my piece,
I mistakenly adjusted a synthesizer line by the
incorrect number of steps . . . yet it sounded 
(for lack of a better word) "cool".
I strongly suspect that if I had been considering this idea
years earlier, I would have immediately written it off
as "wrong" and been unable to clearly listen and evaluate
the idea.  Yet now my ears are opened, thanks to Michael
and "Night Flower"!
When I first started lessons with Michael, I had never recorded
a cover song.  In fact, I was actively averse to the idea:
why would I lean on somebody else's words and music
when I could write my own ? Wasn't the point of composing
to be original and authentic ?  After many conversations
with Michael, my position on this has substantially softened.
Not only is there much to learn by tearing apart and rebuilding
other people's songs, but I can now more clearly see the ways
that artists are always taking ideas
(consciously or subconsciously) from other artwork.
The labels of "original"/"unoriginal" are far less obvious
than they initially seemed to me.
So why create an artificial boundary for cover songs
if a track speaks to me and I have ideas on how
to make a transformative, personal arrangement
in my own style?  With that in mind (and also, 
in the spirit of taking myself less seriously),
here's my take on a modern classic:
"Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X.

about Ethan . . .
is a recording artist currently based in San Leandro, who has been 
recording under the pseudonym Ernest Heat since 2014.  He loves 
all sorts of genres and styles, and has great fun filtering all of his 
influences through his own particular taste and aesthetic.  To date, 
he has released six projects and a handful of singles in a variety 
of styles, from off-kilter synth-pop to acoustic travelogues to 
guitar-centric post-punk, and more.  You can check out his music 
on Bandcamp (or any major streaming service) and follow him on 
Instagram using the links below.



Kim Mi Hoang


is a ripening of an inner struggle and finding what was inside oneself all along.  It has the qualities of love, hope and inspiration.  The piece began as an assignment that focused on building a simple melody on top of improvising harmony that uses bass motion in thirds (including parallel major
and minor keys).  After I created a melody, I built an accompaniment to support and expand the context of it.  Michael has helped me open up to the intuitive side of music writing and playing, by listening to and following where the music wants to go compositionally
and finding ways to match the sound to the emotion of the moment.  We spent the most significant amount of time deciding where and how to sustain the harmony — balancing rhythmic figures, meticulously picking notes for the left hand, and creating longer phrases to create variety in sound, texture, and momentum.


about Kim Mi . . .
was born in Vietnam and was raised in the Bay Area since
the age of 8.  She grew up in a musical family; her father was a
well-known Vietnamese composer/arranger/band leader during
the 1950s-70s, and he named his children after the music notes
Do, Mi, Fa, La, and Ut.  She learned classical piano through the generous cultivation of her teacher, Nora Ayzman and continued
with music studies at UC Davis.  15 years later, with gratitude for her spiritual teacher, Claudio Naranjo, and her many friends and teachers along the way, Kim Mi has found new inspirations for the
music-lover inside herself.



Bobby Akash


Gift of Healing CD


Calencia  1:37
 4:21 (complete work)
Got that Shakti Cookin'  1:11
Clear Blue Sky  2:50
Song for Nennette  2:27
Heart Medicine  2:11
Faerie Reverie  1:04
Gift of Healing  2:28

"For over eight years Michael has helped me expand
my 'palette' of composition tools to a dramatic extent,
suggesting creative ideas I wouldn't have come up with
on my own.  With his coaching I now have a much broader
understanding of vital concepts such as creating contrast,
melodic development, and several others.
I receive many compliments on my composing,
and I attribute a significant degree of that to the instruction
I have received from Michael."
about Bobby . . .
Bobby privately studied piano, improvisation, and composition
with Michael from 1999-2006.  Besides his solo piano playing, 
he also played keyboard in numerous bands.  


Nick Hollan


The Star

This song grew out of a banjo vamp I came up with
a long time ago.  I didn't have much of an idea
what I wanted the song to sound like at first.
Michael and I talked about songs that were built around
vamps and he gave me some listening suggestions.
Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon" inspired my bass line — 
starting as a 2-bar vamp, then expanding to 4 bars.
When the bass line gelled the song really clicked,
and transformed the banjo vamp from a bluesy,
grungy tone to a lighter, more optimistic feeling.
Michael suggested using a flute for the melody,
which really underscored the mood suggested by the
bass line.  To add contrast, I added a B section in the 
middle of the song, ditching the busy banjo and bass vamps
in favor of long strummed chords and simpler bass figures.
Michael was a huge help in refining the harmony
of the B section (as well as the entire melody),
finding chords that supported the melody while
quickening the harmonic rhythm.
The banjo part was recorded live while everything else
was sampled and put together on the computer.
This is my first full-fledged song I've created.


about Nick . . .
Nick grew up playing the clarinet in school and singing in church;
he also has been playing the 5-string banjo since 2010.  He started studying with Michael in 2017 which has included private work, workshops, jazz ensemble classes, composing, and arranging classical works by Bela Bartok.  



Adam Sidney


"Sateen"’s namesake is Erik Satie, whose work influenced 
the piece’s melody and harmonic language, which arose
from a simple left hand vamp.  Michael wrote the vamp
quickly during a lesson in response to my request
to improve coordination and spur new compositional ideas, 
  specifically in my left hand.
I was stuck in a pattern of octaves and fifths in the bass 
 on other pieces and wanted to branch out, but didn’t know
how to begin.  The vamp was a novel style and rhythm
for me, and as I developed familiarity and control,
a right hand melody started to naturally take shape
in my ear.  I played it one night at a lesson 
and Michael encouraged me to expand on it.
I added chromaticism and new motives to reach the final 
result that now evokes its namesake.  Though it veers 
from Satie into other styles later in the piece,
I kept the name in part because of the connotations
with sateen fabric — a metaphor for the mostly relaxing
sounds that might accompany a satisfying afternoon nap.

With the foundation of the original vamp and the opening
in place, Michael’s later coaching focused on developing 
balance, earned contrast, and a dramatic arc.
This included: increasing harmonic density/rhythm,
using chordal melody, chromaticism, and building dynamics
to achieve earned contrast.  His suggestion of imagining
an unaccompanied clarinet to develop the B section melody,
as well as his insistence on stylistic consistency,
were two of the more memorable
and effective coaching points.


about Adam . . .
grew up in a musical household with older siblings and parents who played the piano.  His family attended the Des Moines Symphony regularly and one of his earliest music memories was of the opera singer Simon Estes.  “Steal Away” was Adam’s first ever record, a gift from his Mom when he was five years old, after Estes performed with the symphony.  Church was important for his musical development, singing in choirs from age four until high school.  He started classical piano lessons at age eight and continued until 15, when he took guitar lessons briefly and joined a band, Euterpe, playing mostly original jazz-tinged rock/pop songs.  He’s continued to play the guitar and piano, but not seriously until 2018 when he started piano and composition lessons with Michael.  His tastes and influences have always been eclectic, with classic rock, indie rock, rap, blue grass, soul, classical, jazz, electronic and other genres all in his “best of” lists.  His favorite composers and artists for piano specifically are Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Satie, Glass, and especially the jazz pianist, Bill Evans.




Eve Clausnitzer


Voiceover Audio by Eve Clausnitzer


Bio Rad PCR Plates   0:30
Sunday Breakfast  0:26
Car Commercial  0:27

"Michael provided me with training for both
the writing of scripts for very complex software tutorials
and recording the accompanying
voiceovers for Bio-Rad Labaratories, Inc.
His experienced direction during the recording
brought us toa highly-polished final product.
The recording was well-received by the Marketing Department and was the forerunner to subsequent projects.  I look forward to many years of future collaborations between us.


Recordings by Professionals

works by composers after studying with Michael:


L.A film composer Daniel McCormick




Blackheads    1:55
Big Time 02   2:03
Big Time 13   1:23

Big Time 10   2:55
Inferno           4:05
Agua DeFlor    2:01  
Last Catastrophe      0:48             
Childhood Montage

"Michael is simply an incredible teacher..."



Daniel Tucker
Daniel's website


Kirtan Fusion


Radhe Shyam  1:58
Krishna Rocks  0:55
Govinda Gopala  2:03

Om Namo Bhagavate  2:14

"This has been such a fun process,
and drawing on all the musical skills I’ve got!  
From soloing on the keyboard, to comping various rhythms
with the B3, to arranging three voices in harmony,
to jotting down rhythmic ideas in rhythm notation,
I owe a lot to your guidance.  Not to mention
all the ‘other’ stuff of a musician’s life,
like posting Craigslist ads, maintaining an email list
with concert announcements, keeping the plants
in my studio healthy...  ;)  
So... Thanks!  Really appreciate your sharing
all that knowledge and experience..
And enjoying putting it to use now."