New York City native Michael Cohen has a diverse and expansive career as a composer. His many compositions include works for chamber ensemble, musical theater, opera, and television. He attended the High School of Music and Art and the Dalcroze School of Music, graduated cum laude from Brandeis University, and studied composition with Harold Shapero and Irving Fine.
Following his discharge from the United States Army, Cohen held positions as Music Director on the flagship of the Norwegian American line, Associate Music Director at Atlanta’s Music Under the Stars, Dance Composer and Arranger at Tamiment resort, and Music Director at Green Mansions, a venue which produced weekly live theater events. During his time at Green Mansions, Cohen hired the yet undiscovered Madeline Kahn and a long friendship developed. He composed several songs for Madeline, including Das Chicago Song, which she sang for her Broadway debut in New Faces of 1968 and later for an audition with Mel Brooks for a role in Blazing Saddles. In 1969, Cohen established the music department at Grey Advertising in New York City, and over a period of 30 years as Senior Vice President, Director of Music, produced and composed thousands of commercials, winning multiple Clio awards.
In 1981 he teamed up with librettist Linsey Abrams to write Rappacinni’s Daughter, a two-act opera based on Natheniel Hawthorne’s short story Rappacinni’s Daughter. A finalist in the New York City Opera competition, it was later developed at the Eugene O’Neill Center, and at Minnesota Opera. Cohen and writer Enid Futterman collaborated on Yours, Anne, a music-theater piece based on The Diary of Anne Frank. Yours, Anne has been performed in many US cities, as well as in England, Holland, Brazil, and Japan. The success of the musical resulted in two commissioned works– the song cycle “I Am Anne Frank,” performed by Andrea Marcovicci and the American Symphony Orchestra for the Spirit of Anne Frank Awards at Lincoln Center, and I Remember, a chamber work which premiered at the US Memorial Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.
Cohen scored and arranged A Passover Seder, a 1995 PBS television program presented by author and Nobel Laureate, Elie Weisel. He has received numerous commissions from the Concert Artists Guild, Serenata, Music Amici, the Manhattan Brass Quintet, and the trio Windsong. His composition, To Be A Child, was premiered at the Copland Heritage Society’s official opening of the Aaron Copland home to the public. Cohen has served as a board member for the Concert Artists Guild, The Center for Contemporary Opera, and The American Society for Jewish Music. He is a member of ASCAP.