Michael Compitello is a percussionist dedicated to honoring his instrument’s most important repertoire while creating dynamic new art through collaborations with composers, performers, actors, and artists in all mediums. With cellist Hannah Collins as New Morse Code, Michael has created a singular repertoire through long-term collaboration with some of America’s most esteemed composers. Currently, Michael’s Unsnared Drum project seeks to reinvent the much-maligned instrument through collaboration with four of America’s most dynamic women composers. After several years as Assistant Professor of Percussion at the University of Kansas, Michael was recently appointed as Assistant Professor of Percussion at Arizona State University. He also serves as Assistant Director of Avaloch Farm Music Institute.
Rhythm! Scene: If you weren't a university percussion professor, what career could you see yourself having pursued?
Michael Compitello: I’d fall back on all my previous career plans: historian, chef, or sports commentator.
R!S: What's one thing in your institution or city/town (other than your school of music or music department) that you are proud to tell people about?
MC: The coffee and baked goods scene in Lawrence and Kansas City is exceptional. Everyone who visits me seems to remember the croissants and cappuccinos more than the music. As an Arizonan, I must say, though, that I am looking forward to the sun, cacti, and “winters” in Tempe.
R!S: What's one thing about you that your students would unanimously proclaim?
MC: I love food! I’m sure my students would say that almost all of my analogies are food related, and I have a particular proclivity for sweet things—chocolate, pastries, etc.
R!S: What is your favorite percussion instrument and why?
MC: My favorite instrument is constantly changing. Right now, I’m on a big snare drum kick because of my Unsnared Drum project. I’ve been trying to unlearn my preconceptions about the instrument while working with some amazing composers.
R!S: Where did you grow up, and what’s one interesting thing about your childhood (musically or otherwise)?
MC: I was born in Lansing, Michigan and moved to Tucson, Arizona when I was nine. I was fortunate to get to travel a lot with my family as a kid. Too bad I was really motion sick most of the time!