Michael Bridge is a 21st-century musical maverick—toppling popular expectations of what it is to be a professional accordionist.
He’s a virtuoso performer—a superstar on both acoustic accordion, and its 21st-century cousin, the digital accordion. He’s won a slew of competitions in Canada and abroad and offers lectures and masterclasses around the world.
He embraces a musical esthetic that is alternatively irreverent, deadly serious, meticulously prepared and completely in-the-moment. He’s at home with jazz, folk and classical music. He’s premiered 53 new works. If pushed, he’ll say he likes Baroque music best because of its unforgiving demand for clarity of intent and execution.
He began playing when he was 5 and growing up in Calgary. His mom bought an accordion at a garage sale for $5. A family friend started teaching him to play by ear. Formal lessons began at 7.
He spent weekends at prairie accordion competitions, playing polkas and learning to dance.
At 15 he attended the World Accordion Championship as a spectator. For the first time he heard classical accordion and fell in love with it. He started all over again, mastering a completely different kind of accordion and a whole new technique.
He was soon offering a hundred community concerts a year. As a soloist with orchestra or string quartet, with his two ensembles, he continues that pace, playing in concert halls all over the world. He’s also a serious academic: he received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Toronto studying with Joseph Macerollo (the first Canadian to do so), and is a Rebanks Fellows at the Glenn Gould School.
Bridge (along with his clarinet partner Kornel Wolak) performs on a digital accordion – essentially a computer housed in a conventional accordion case. This extraordinary piece of technological wizardry imitates the sound of just about any instrument you can imagine. He can single-handedly shake the rafters with a convincing “1812 Overture”, canons and bells included. Bridge & Wolak concerts capture the energy and panache of stadium rock with the discipline and finesse of chamber music. Think Bach on steroids.
He’s also mastered the more familiar acoustic accordion, a soulful, highly expressive instrument, essential to the music of Toronto-based Ladom Ensemble. Along with cello, piano and percussion, the Ladom quartet creates a sophisticated blend of everything from traditional Persian melodies, to Bach and Piazzolla, to Radiohead.
Bridge also gives back through an on-line Music Mentorship Program. After performing hundreds of concerts in schools – usually in the less-than-ideal setting of a packed gymnasium with a tight time limit – Bridge and Wolak determined to build more meaningful relationships with musically inclined teens. With help from composers, tech people and producers, they introduce emerging artists to the wide world of professional music.
When he’s not being a musical renaissance man, you’ll find Bridge salsa dancing, cooking vegan dishes and talking to smart people. He loves to travel and he’s trying to live a more minimal life – abandoning anything that isn’t essential to his life and work.
But what really matters for Michael Bridge is making your world more bearable, beautiful and human – even if only for the length of a concert.