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Michael's Technicolour Journey Leads to Prestigious Music Award Nomination

Published: 21 Oct 2015

Mike Dooley
Michael Dooley - studying the Advanced Diploma of Music at CIT

Music has always been a big part of CIT music graduate Michael Dooley's life, but it was more than 30 years before he jumped into it as a full-time vocation. Now, with a prestigious screen awards nomination for his first feature length composition, the industry is welcoming this talented jazz pianist and composer with open arms.

Michael, a Canberra born and bred composer, took a conventional first step to music mastery by studying classical composition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Then he took a giant leap off the beaten track, with a 30 year hiatus in favour of humanitarian work overseas, including in the Middle East and Thailand.

Yet music was always there in the background.

"I wasn't really thinking of music as a career, but I still did lots of it during that time, and learnt much about different world music styles. We would use concerts as a way to engage people and reach out to them as part of our humanitarian work.

He couldn't have known how influential this experience would be for his future success.

"I was in Jordan for five years, which is right next to Egypt. I heard and played a lot of the music of the region over that time. Having that background was really helpful when it came to composing the music for Joseph."

Joseph is a US produced children's animation based on the Bible story set in Egypt, for which Michael has earnt a nomination in the Screen Music Awards 2015 presented by APRA AMCOS and the Australian Guild of Screen Composers, alongside names like Nick Cave and Archie Roach.

He says he was "a bit surprised" by the nomination, and "very grateful" to also receive an out-of-round grant by Arts ACT for travel expenses to the November award ceremony.

Michael Dooley Piano
Michael Dooley at the piano

Michael is now working on other movie production projects, as well as teaching music, regularly gigging with his band In2 Deep, that also features Canberra vocalist Rachel Thorne, and performing as a solo pianist, including at Canberra Centre.

Though Michael admits he sometimes wishes he had pursued his dream to be a composer earlier, it seems that some things just need the right amount of time to ripen.

"I studied composition a long time ago, learning a lot about classical theory. After 30 years, I came back to Canberra looking for a place to get certain skills, learn about the current state of the music industry and latest software and develop networks."

He enrolled in the Advanced Diploma of Music at Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT).

"I didn't know what to expect, but I was really impressed with the expertise of the teachers. They have a good balance of formal education and real world experience, and are really adaptable to different styles and levels of music.

"I learnt lots from the recording classes, and got gigging opportunities and permanent work from the connections I made through the teachers.

"You get out what you put in. If you have a positive attitude and you're hungry to learn, the teachers have so much to share with you."

Taking the road less travelled has definitely given Michael a unique edge as he continues to draw on influences from his eclectic life experience in his work.

"I often think composing is like composting," Michael muses, reflecting on this.

"With composing, you mix in all your life experiences, and it becomes organic material you can use to create something new."

The Screen Music Awards 2015 will be announced on Thursday 12 November.

Hear Michael's original piano pieces performed by five local virtuosos, including CIT lecturer and composer Sally Greenaway, in Anachronisms - a composer's journey through time, 28 November, 8pm, All Saints Church, Ainslie.