B i o g r a p h y
Michael C. Haigler is a conductor of choral, orchestral, operatic, and theatrical music, a frequent recitalist, published author and composer, clinician, coach, and teacher. Equally at home in many styles of music, he made his New York City conducting debut in 2004 with the Opera Company of Brooklyn’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro at CAMI Hall in Manhattan, and has since won guest conductor positions with the Larchmont Symphonia, the New York Symphonic Arts Ensemble, the Orchestra of the Bronx, Bronx Opera, the Lehman College Drama Department, the Opera Company of Brooklyn, Park Avenue Synagogue, the Westchester Chorale, and the Winter Harbor Music Festival, among others. In 2001 he was honored to be selected from over 350 candidates as a North American finalist in Lorin Maazel's International Conducting Competition. In December 2018 he made his Lincoln Center debut as an invited conductor in the National Chorale Messiah Sing-in. He currently serves as Music Director at Christ Church Episcopal in Oyster Bay, Long Island, home to the Christ Church Festival Orchestra which he founded in 2006. There he has conducted masterworks such as Requiems by Mozart, Fauré, Brahms, and Rutter, and symphonies including Mendelssohn's Italian, Beethoven's Ninth, and Mahler's Resurrection (complete). He also serves as Artistic Director of the Hudson Valley Chorale, and Associate Conductor of the New York Symphonic Arts Ensemble. He also is the Founding Music Director of Festival 56, Illinois’ largest summer theater festival which he helped found in 2003. Other recent credits include the Sarasota Pops Orchestra, Atlanta Opera, Sarasota Opera (FL), Virginia Opera, Knoxville Opera, and Cartersville Opera (GA). He has won many awards as a pianist, including the Atlanta Steinway Society competition, and state and regional divisions of MTNA’s Yamaha Competition. As an active composer and arranger, his work has been performed by the Atlanta Opera, Sarasota Opera, the Goliard Chamber Ensemble, the Yale University BlueDogs, and the Millier-Porforis Duo.
Mr. Haigler holds a magna cum laude performance degree from the Eastman School of Music where he studied with David Effron, Donald Hunsberger, Barry Snyder, and Anton Nel. He is also an alumnus of the Interlochen Center for the Arts (MI), and the International Fine Arts Institute in Moscow, Russia.
Mr. Haigler was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and now lives in upper Manhattan with his wife, pianist Arielle Levioff.
Photo by Joseph Moran
B i o g r a p h y
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, conductor Michael C. Haigler began playing the piano at age four, composing at age six, and actively performing by age seven. At eleven he began studying the oboe, in both private lessons and in his school band program, and later also played the trumpet. He studied voice as well, and by high school age had won seats as an all-state oboist, trumpet player, and chorister (three times), and state-level awards in Boy's Vocal Solo (2nd place), Boys' Quartet (1st place), Composition (winner), and Piano Solo (three-time champion).
In his teens, under the tutelage of Mary Ann and William Knight, he thrived in private competition as a pianist, winning the prestigious Atlanta Steinway Society competition, and the state and regional divisions of Music Teachers National Association’s Yamaha competition. He also attended the National Music Camp at Interlochen for two summers, studying piano, organ, composition, conducting, and orchestration. Both years he was chosen as a finalist in the concerto competition, received the Van Cliburn scholarship award, had his compositions read in the orchestral composer’s forum, and won understudy roles in the operetta production. He was also chosen for master classes with such esteemed pianists as Andre Watts and Gary Graffman, and a special class with Eugene Istomin filmed for television and broadcast on the Arts & Entertainment Network.
Continuing his pursuit to become a well-rounded multi-faceted musician, Haigler attended the Eastman School of Music where he graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Piano Performance, studying piano with Barry Snyder and Anton Nel, collaborative piano with Dr. Jean Barr, and conducting with David Effron and Donald Hunsberger. He also served as Chorus Master with Eastman Opera Theater's production of Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites, and conducted almost two dozen concertos in student recitals. During the summers, he co-founded and conducted the Northwest Georgia Summer Band Program, consisting of three performing ensembles of high school age students. He also spent a summer studying abroad in Moscow as part of an International Fine Arts Institute study and performance tour.
Although he was accepted into the Master’s program at Eastman, Michael chose to return to his native Georgia where he became first chorus master, then conductor of the Cartersville Opera, a small professional company near Atlanta. His successes there led him to the Virginia Opera, and later the Sarasota Opera where he served on the music staff and as cover (understudy) conductor for two or more operas each season. During his third and fourth years in Sarasota he was made Associate Conductor and served year-round as the Music Director of the Sarasota Youth Opera program, culminating in fully-staged productions with orchestra, featuring more than eighty young singers. Mr. Haigler's time in Sarasota also saw the first of two productions of his orchestration of the original version of Bizet's opera The Pearl Fishers, for which only a vocal score of the original survived. The production received rave reviews under the baton of guest conductor William Fred Scott, who later encored Mr. Haigler's orchestrations with the Atlanta Opera.
In 2001 Mr. Haigler spent the first of three summers in Maine on faculty at the New England Music Camp as conductor of the camp's Treble Choir. That fall he moved to New York and was selected as one of eight out of 350 young conductors to represent North America in the Maazel-Vilar International Conducting Competition. He left New York in early 2002 to serve as an Assistant Conductor with the Atlanta Opera for a season, mounting Puccini's La Rondine, and his aforementioned orchestration of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers. There followed a year on the faculty at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville where, with the title of Artist in Residence, he coached singers and chamber musicians, served as Assistant Conductor with the Knoxville Opera, and conducted the school's Opera Theater production of Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Although he had always been active as a composer, scoring music for several video productions, TV commercials, and a student film, it was around this time Mr. Haigler began to truly thrive as a composer. He joined with fellow thespian Dexter James Brigham to write a musical called The Business of Passion, subtitled “a musical about opera”. Shortly after, that musical had its first staged reading at the Producer’s Club in Manhattan, and helped launch The November Ten Production Company, of which Mr. Haigler is Founding Music Director. It later received its first full production at Festival 56, now Illinois’ largest summer theater festival. He received his first large-scale commission in 2003, a twenty-minute work for three choruses and small orchestra for the centennial celebration of Irving Park Lutheran Church in Chicago. There followed several commissions with the Goliard Chamber Ensemble, based in Queens (NYC), the most significant being Your World: A brief song cycle on poems by Georgia Douglas Johnson, premiered during Black History Month, honoring the heritage of the poet. Mr. Haigler has also written numerous works for piano, organ, and voice, and many sacred choral works and arrangements.
In 2003, Mr. Haigler returned to New York, this time to stay. He began working as a pianist with organizations like DiCapo Opera, Bronx Opera, Riverside Opera, and Amore Opera, and coaching singers in both opera and musical theater. In 2004 Mr. Haigler made his New York conducting debut with Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro at CAMI Hall with the Opera Company of Brooklyn, with whom he would later conduct Menotti's The Consul, and Mozart's The Impresario. Mr. Haigler also began as Chorus Master, and later Assistant Conductor of the Bronx Opera, positions he still holds, and conducted his fourth opening night in January 2015 with Benjamin Britten's Albert Herring. As a passionate educator in the fields of music and theater, Mr. Haigler was thrilled that his connection to the Bronx Opera also led to him being appointed music director and conductor of two productions with the Lehman College Drama Department, South Pacific and The Pirates of Penzance, with the Orchestra of the Bronx.
Church music has always been an vibtant part of Michael's life, both personally and professionally. In 2003 he began as Music Director at the Church of St. Andrew in Staten Island’s historic Old Richmond Town district. In January 2005, Michael left Staten Island to become the Music Director at Christ Church Oyster Bay, the Long Island church that Theodore Roosevelt called home during and after his presidency. A year later Mr. Haigler founded the Christ Church Festival Orchestra, and started "Concerts at Christ Church", a separately funded arts organization presenting a dozen concerts a year, including large Gala concerts with the Christ Church chorus and orchestra programs. In his time at Christ Church, Mr. Haigler has conducted the expected fare, such as Requiems by Mozart, Fauré, Brahms, and Rutter, the Bach Magnificat and Cantata No. 34 ("O ewiges feuer..."), Mozart’s Solemn Vespers (K.339), Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass, and Schubert's Mass in G. But Mr. Haigler has also led more ambitious works, such as the opera Amahl and the Night Visitors (staged, with orchestra), Beethoven overtures (Coriolan and Leonore No. 3), Brahms' Academic Festival Overture, Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto, Haydn's "the Bear" Symphony, Mendelssohn's "Italian" Symphony, Bach's Brandenburg Concertos No. 2 and 3, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and even Mahler’s "Resurrection" Symphony, commemorating 100 years since the death of the composer. (Audio and video of most of these is available here.) In September of 2018, Christ Church hosted the Saint Thomas Choir School (Fifth Ave) and their director, Daniel Hyde, for an afternoon concert, and Mr. Haigler had the pleasure of conducting them, combined with Christ Church's own choirs.
As an organist, Mr. Haigler is a proud member of the AGO (American Guild of Organists), and also serves as Hymnody Editor for the widely circulated church publication Synthesis, a position he has held since 2008. In 2015 he earned his Master's Degree equivalency, certified via the New York Board of Regents, becoming an Associate of the American Guild of Organists (AAGO), achieving the highest score in the nation on the written exam. In April 2018 Mr. Haigler was a featured performer in an AAGO+ recital featuring Long Island-based organists, culminating with a performance by American concert organist Chelsea Chen.
As a freelance conductor in New York City, Mr. Haigler has had guest conductor engagements with numerous organizations including the Orchestra of the Bronx, the New York Symphonic Arts Ensemble, the Seniors Orchestral Society of New York, the Park Avenue Synagogue orchestra, musicals with Lehman Stages (at Lehman College), the Bronx Opera, the Opera Company of Brooklyn, New Camerata Opera, the New York Metro Vocal Arts Ensemble, and Park and Bark Opera, among others. Outside of New York, he has earned guest conductor positions with the Midland Center for the Arts (Michigan), the Bartow County honor chorus concert (Georgia), the Florida's Music Teachers' Conference (Florida), the Rockland County Choral Festival (NY), and the Westchester Chorale and Larchmont Symphonia (both in Westchester County, NY). In 2018 Mr. Haigler was invited by the National Chorale to be a featured conductor at the annual Messiah Sing-In at Lincoln Center (at David Geffen Hall). In August 2020 he will conduct The Barber of Seville with the Winter Harbor Music Festival in Maine.
In 2016 Mr. Haigler became Artistic Director of the Hudson Valley Chorale, and Associate Conductor of the New York Symphonic Arts Ensemble, positions he still holds. In October 2014 he conducted the world premiere of Mario Tedesco's Larchmont Woods (for violin soloist and orchestra), as well as Joseph Jongen's impressive Symphonie Concertante for Organ and Orchestra with the Larchmont Symphonia (NY). In 2012 Maestro Haigler conducted the Senios Orchestral Society in the New York premiere of the revised version of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 (video here).
In rare moments not involving music, he enjoyes playing bridge and chess, solving crosswords puzzles and Rubik's Cubes of all sizes, and playing golf (badly). Michael lives in upper Manhattan with his wife, pianist Arielle Levioff, and their infant son, Noah Benjamin (born in 2022).