Signature Story by Bonnie Burkert

Posted by Michele McLaughlin on April 10, 2015

About Michele McLaughlin

Pianist Michele McLaughlin reveals emotions through her fingertips, twinkling across the keys creating sonic landscapes and scenes. “I think the piano is one of the most expressive instruments.” she describes. “It’s got such a wide range of notes, low lows and high highs. You can really dig in and get angry and volatile with it, or you can touch it lightly and make it whisper and sing lightly.” In her prolific career as an independent recording artist with fifteen albums to her credit, Michele’s sparkling and serene solo piano compositions songs become a diary, written in the universal language of music. Michele McLaughlin was born to play piano, learning through her own experimentation rather than lessons “which took all the fun out of playing” as a young girl. “I have always known how to play.” says Michele. “People ask me how I do it, the answer is I don’t know how, I just do it.”

Her first concert at the age of eight was to see the renowned pianist George Winston, and the experience would impact her forever. She listened and learned from his dreamy, spacious playing; not just his technique, but also the reflection he brought through his music. Despite a growing love of pianos and playing, Michele was shy about sharing her music. Coaxed by her supportive mother later in life, she created a homemade recording of her favorite songs she had composed over the years, duplicating cassettes to give as holiday gifts. The praise and appreciation she received was transformative validation, giving her the courage to pursue her dream of being a professional pianist. “It’s really because of my mom that I started this whole musical journey. She died in 2006, so she hadn’t been a part of my journey for very long. It’s sad - she was instrumental in launching my whole career, and I wish she could be here to see how it continues to grow.”

Great creativity can come from heartbreak, and Michele masterfully uses her playing for expression. “It’s my therapy; time with the piano and composing or writing music is how I get my stress, sadness, and joy out.” Of all the emotions that she channels so effortlessly into music, the melancholy of life has been a draw for her loyal fans, who are eager to have someone express audibly what they have felt internally. “The sad music is my favorite kind of music.” relates Michele. “I write a lot of happy songs and waltz-y songs in ¾ time, but my fans and I are of like mind, the favorite pieces are the sad and dark ones. They share with me how the music has helped them through challenging times.” Such an honest representation of herself in her music has been celebrated beyond her fans, with a career as a New Age piano soloist that has garnered much critical acclaim.

From Michele McLaughlin’s early releases, The Beginning of Forever, A Celtic Dream and Out of the Darkness, to her Christmas release, Christmas - Plain and Simple I-II, she has been a constant presence on the Amazon and iTunes New Age charts, plus in the Top 100 of the ZMR and NAR radio charts since 2009. Michele’s 2013 release Waking the Muse was selected as Album of The Year by Whisperings Solo Piano Radio, with songs “Spiritual Awakening” nominated for Best New Age Song in that year’s Independent Music Awards, and “Radiance” as Best Instrumental Song at the Hollywood Music in Media (HMMA’s) Awards. Michele’s 2015 album release Undercurrent reflects the feeling of joy and sadness that come with making changes life and how you shouldn’t judge anyone by the face they put on in public. “I was inspired by Plato’s quote ‘Always be kind for everyone is fighting a hard battle.’ Moving into a new house after living near my sister was hard. And even though I’m a single woman, which I enjoy, and I love my new space, there are times when I miss companionship and I’m lonely. The term ‘undercurrent’ just seemed to fit that theme. “ When Undercurrent was selected as the title for the album, Michele set about her next task, creating the artwork. “I wanted an abstract oil painting with muted colors- rust and gold, and turbulent waves to symbolize the energy of the music and the battle under the surface.” She shared her vision with the designer, and was so amazed at the work which perfectly matched what she pictured in her mind, that she plans to commission a real oil painting of the Undercurrent album art to hang in her new home.

Beyond composing and recording her music, concert performances, and gathering awards, Michele finds illumination by traveling the world. “I love scenic beauty and that’s where inspiration comes from. I feel a spiritual connection when I visit the great cities of Europe. I marvel at the history of how these majestic castles and basilicas, which stand the test of time, were built with such simple tools.” Her refuge is in her hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah. Michele has created a sanctuary in her home, with large spacious rooms serving as a harmonious sound chamber. “I actually selected the house with the piano in mind. It sounds completely different in this space! It is in my living room, which I have made into a concert venue. The open spaciousness of the room makes the sound so much bigger when I perform.”

Michele plays on a Fazoli F212, one of the world’s most famous pianos. “I will admit this: I am a piano snob!” she confesses with a chuckle. “I had my spinet piano first, then my first digital piano, then my first baby grand, then a Yamaha grand, then a Yamaha C7 grand, and now the Fazoli. It’s a handmade Italian grand - the best piano I have ever played. It makes a difference; the music flows. It enhances my creativity, opening doors and channels in me. I can make it growl and scream, or make it lightly whisper and everything in between.” Michele performs intimate house concerts for family, friends and fans to share her incredible views of the Salt Lake Valley and her latest compositions, appropriately named Valley View Concerts. “I love spending time with all my family and friends, dedicating my music to them. I play songs and am overcome with a ‘cup runneth over’ feeling. The concerts in my home are sacred to me.” Michele McLaughlin brings clarity and composure to her heartfelt playing, moving the listener through intimate tonalities, which are uniquely experienced. “I arrange my songs in themes because they are really like a diary of my year.” she reflects. “Life is a series of stepping stones, leading us down a path of love. I write music because I love it, and I want others to feel that too. I’m lucky to do what I love for a living.” We’re lucky too, as Michele’s playing invites us to join her journey of reflection, emotion, and devotion.  

Written by Bonnie Burkert

piano music for beginners

Topics: interview