There are so many routes to becoming a professional musician, but none are more dramatic than "being called to it," i.e. that inexorable sensation of being drawn to music from an early age, desperate to immerse oneself as both a listener and, eventually, a player. This is the road that Renee Michele traveled to arrive at where she is today - an accomplished and sensitive composer and performer of reflective, flowing, melodic piano tone poems. As a child, Renee's fascination with music first manifested itself as an intense desire to listen to her favorite music pieces over, and over, and over…and over. When she finally began playing piano (like many others in this genre, she took formal lessons as a child), this love of hearing the same piece repeatedly led to her playing her favorite songs over and over many times. "I would often play pieces I loved on a repetitive loop. This often drove my parents crazy. I would do the same thing when I learned a piece [that] I loved on the piano. I think I could play the same song for over an hour."
At first, Renee, who was very shy, had quite a bit of trepidation about taking private lessons, but her piano teacher ended up having a huge influence on her, giving her confidence a much-needed jolt by expressing her belief in Renee's musical gifts, which also helped Renee devote hours of time to practicing. "Piano was one thing I always made time for." Renee continued her music studies at the University of Montana and, in a show of how much she wants to give back to the institution, she will be donating her two pianos and any future royalties to the university in the hopes that she will be "…helping other young composers not have such a difficult of a financial time as I."
Personal tragedy led to triumph for Renee when her father passed away. Before then, she would dabble at composing her own music, but not in any serious way. After his death…"I found the piano was the only way I could seem to comfort myself through the grieving process." As she went forward, she found she could "journal" at the piano, using the instrument as a means to explore her emotions and seek resolution and comfort. This emotional channeling, if you will, is especially true on her latest (and fifth overall) album, Seasons of the Heart, which, Renee states, is "the reflective emotionally journey of love, despair, gratitude, loss, and dreams we all share."
Renee's love of musical education is also interwoven with her training as an Occupational Therapist. She utilizes her music studies to help her work with children with special needs, teaching them piano and helping them find their own "voice" with which to heal. "I will always teach piano. I feel it is my obligation to the world to pass it on." Her life experiences have a large impact on her music, especially as part of the composing process where she refers to them as the "main source" of her pieces. She once watched as a young teenager in Mexico begged for money on the streets. She was especially moved by "…his eyes. They were beautiful but sad and lost…this scene haunted me for weeks. It took over my piano…until “Eyes of the Soul” was born (the song is on Seasons of the Heart).
Like so many artists in this genre, she has a dream of her music being used as the soundtrack to a film, but in her case, she conjures up a very particular image in her head. "My dream music project is to someday hear one of my pieces in a major motion picture, being skated to by a world class ice skater." However, her primary goal is to "…have the music support itself and [thereby] to help assist other young composers through its revenues."
Seasons of the Heart is Renee's first recording where she has turned the production and engineering chores over to someone else, in this instance that "someone" being the hottest production team in instrumental music today—ace producer Will Ackerman and engineer Tom Eaton. Under their guidance, her pilgrimage to Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont has yielded a warm, intimate, heartfelt album—ten songs that will take listeners on their own personal journey, delving deep into their souls and revealing their own "seasons of the heart.”
Renee Michele lives in Hillboro, Oregon, with her shih tzu/bichon mix, Boo Bear, who Renee promises "…is always under the piano. He hears the birth of every piece first and has to approve of every compositions completion by a 'wag of the tail.' "