Michael Pagán was born in Ravenna, Ohio. He was raised in a musical family and received his first exposure to music as well as piano instruction from his parents. He remembers hearing recordings of Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, and Miles Davis, as well as Beethoven, when he was seven. At Kent State University he earned his Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education with an emphasis in piano and choral music and a Master of Arts in composition, where his teachers were James Waters, Thomas Janson, and Frank Wiley. He was a music theory student of Hugh A. Glauser, after whom the school was later named. Mike played piano in the new music ensemble under the direction of Frank Wiley and the jazz ensemble under the direction of Chas Baker. His piano teachers included Toni Glauser, Lois Rova Ozanich, Robert Palmieri, and Olga Kuehl-White of the University of Akron. The piano playing and compositions of the late Pat Pace were also an inspiration. During those years Mike played jazz piano and bass in the Cleveland/Akron area. He also played bass in the Kent State University Orchestra. He received his Doctor of Music degree in composition from Northwestern University, where his principle composition teachers were Lynden DeYoung, Alan Stout, and Steven Syverud. He played piano in the NU jazz and contemporary music ensembles, both directed by Don Owens and continued piano study with Laurence Davis. While in Chicago he was named a “musician deserving wider recognition” by Downbeat magazine. As a jazz pianist he has performed for over 35 years throughout the United States and in Europe with many jazz greats. He has performed as a soloist with ensembles including the Ashland (OH) Symphony Orchestra, the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra, the Northshore Concert Band, the Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra of Denver and a number of university jazz ensembles; he has also played aboard the legendary Delta Queen on the Mississippi River. More recent engagements include an on-going Tuesday night gig at Cafe Trio in Kansas City, where he has played solo piano for five years, and the "Dueling Piano Summit" concerts, an annual event featuring fellow Kansas City pianists Joe Cartwright, Roger Wilder and Bram Wijnands in duo piano format.
Mike has produced an extensive list of compositions and arrangements, over 150 works, mostly in the jazz idiom. He has received numerous awards for work in this area, including First Prize, New Music for Young Ensembles international composers competition which included a Carnegie Hall premiere. He has received commissions from the American Jazz Museum, the Michigan Music Teachers Association, the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra, WLS-TV Channel 7, Chicago and high schools and colleges throughout the country. His 2005 big band CD Pag’s Groove received airplay and critical acclaim throughout the United States and in Europe, earning a 5-star review in the Irish Times of Dublin. His CD Three for the Ages featuring bassist Bob Bowman and drummer Ray DeMarchi garnered glowing reviews and was played across the United States on NPR. His 12 Preludes and Fugues for saxophone quartet was recorded by the Colorado Saxophone Quartet and also received outstanding reviews.
Pagán is currently an associate professor and chair of the music department at Ottawa University in Ottawa, KS, where he directs Bravo!, the Ottawa University Jazz Singers and teaches applied piano and applied jazz piano.
As a jazz pianist Michael has performed for thirty years with a long list of jazz greats. In 1999 he and vibraphonist Doug Walter formed a jazz duo and Dutch Music Partners is the exclusive publisher of many of their compositions and arrangements. The group’s critically acclaimed CD “Duo” was released by Dutch Music Partners label in 2003.