“Michaela Steinhauer, whose subtle voice is a breath of fresh air, is not only a singer to look out for, but an arranger with a vision that brings sensibilities of her native Germany and fuses them with jazz in a tasteful seamless fashion that truly exemplifies the universality of this American art form.” – JD Walter
Music? “It’s my life: give me a microphone, and I am where I belong,” says Michaela “Misha” Steinhauer about the art she loves.
That microphone may be in New York or in Moscow, where this witty and energetic jazz singer, composer, and arranger recorded her latest CDs and worked for almost two decades; or in her native country of Germany, where she started singing before she could even walk, as family lore has it.
Misha is all about using her versatile voice to transcend musical limitations. By writing her own songs or stripping the musical dust off well-known jazz standards, German hits of the 1930s, pop songs or – inspired by her Protestant background – even church hymns, she reharmonizes them to create her own jazz sound: “You can’t really pigeonhole me,” says Misha, as she tries to explain her style, “It’s safe to say that my music is joyfully jazzy and that I use my voice not only to communicate lyrics but as an instrument in its own right.”
Reinventing traditional music has been the focus of several of her albums. “I kind of peel off the too often heard musical verbiage to find the core of the songs and try to build them up anew, so they can be listened to with a fresh ear.”
Her style is adventurous, eclectic, emotional, but above all tender. She believes music should be shared through the ages, with an open heart.
Misha was born into a musical family; she began playing the piano at the age of 9 and joined the local church and school choirs. Through them she got acquainted with American gospel and spiritual music. That’s when she started to improvise, not even knowing the word for what she was doing at the time. At the age of 16 she co-founded her first band, in which she sang and wrote lyrics and songs (pop/rock).
After high school, she studied business and human resources. She also started taking vocal lessons: classical style at first, but she soon changed to jazz. This art form became the love of her life. In 1999, she and her family moved to Moscow (Russia). After two years of learning Russian and taking private lessons in singing, composition, and classical piano – and after winning a first prize at the Essenin Contest for Young Composers in 2000 – she decided to start from scratch and study vocal jazz performance at the College for Jazz and Popular Music Konsort in Moscow (her teachers among others: Inga Yannik (voc), Michael Okun (jazz piano, improvisation), Yuri Tshugunov (composition and harmony). During this time she took part in several student contests, where she won first and second prices as solo singer but also with vocal ensembles. She finished her studies with distinction and crowned her success with the recording of her first CD “With a bit of your love”.
Since then she has been working as a performing artist, teaching vocals (2004–2007 at the College Konsort, Moscow, and private lessons, 2012–2013 at the Studio Cinema Moscow), leading vocal ensembles (German Embassy School, 7th to 12th grade 2004–2011, Colours of Grace), and directing workshops (Novosibirsk, Kazan, Yoshkar-Ola, Braunschweig, et al.). She also wrote the story, screenplay, and music for the musical dramas Silly & Rough (2009), Plastic Worlds (2010), and Snake Poison (2011).
In 2004, she became acquainted with JD Walter, Alison Wedding, and Miles Griffith. She started studying with them and also taking part in master classes and workshops (JD Walter, Deborah Brown, Tathevik Oganessian, Rhiannon, et al.). Since 2004 she has also been touring Germany (Weinstädter Jazztage 2008, Braunschweig Classics 2008, Hamburger Klangkirche, Frankfurt, et al.), Russia (Moscow, Novosibirsk, et al.), in line with the German Goetheinstitut: German Days in Novosibirsk, Kazan, Samara, Saratov, Tomsk, et al.), and other countries (Georgia, Azherbajdjan together with Lionel Haas Trio).
In 2014 Misha moved to New York to study at Queens College (CUNY). Her teachers (among others) JD Walter, Alison Wedding (voc), David Berkman (harmony, jazz piano, improvisation), Michael Mossman (improvisation, arrangement, composition), Donna Doyle (counterpoint). There she obtained her Master’s degree in jazz studies in 2016.
In 2018 she moved back to Germany. There she developed her first solo program “Naturally Grey – Songs of a Lady”. Accompanying herself on piano she tells stories about life from a very female point of view, painting witty, bitter-sweet and melancholic sound paintings of daily situations. Once again she makes use of different styles, ranging from Jazz to Chanson to even Classical music in order to invent her own musical and emotional soundscape.
Up to now Misha has recorded eight albums:
2017 Dreaming with eyes wide awake (original songs, recorded with Hendrik Meurkens (vibraphone, harmonica), Glauco Lima (pno), Michal Jaros (bass) and Samuel Martinelle (drums) in New York
2016 Talks around midnight (a mix of jazz standard ideas and free improvisation connected through a narrated story) recorded with Roman Stolyar and Alexey Kruglov in Moscow/Russia
2012 Doxology Christian hymns 16th to 18th century reharmonized, Wallace Roney (trp), Orrin Evans (pno), Steve Varner (bass), Vince Ector (drums) in New York
2010 Yesterdays jazz standards reharmonized, recorded with Craig Handy (sax), Jim Riddle (pno), Luquez Curtiz (bass), Vince Ector (drums) in New York
2008 Christmas Jazz German Christmas carols reharmonised; Vladimir Nesterenko pno & flute, Anton Revnyuk bass, David Tkebutshava dr
2008 Quadratur des Kreises Mishas original songs, Jakov Okun pno, Anton Revnyuk bass, Aleksandr Mashyn dr, Vladimir Nesterenko flute
2006 Early Train original songs, Jakov Okun pno, Anton Revnyuk bass, Aleksandr Mashyn dr, Ilya Pokrovsky perc
2004 With a Bit of Your Love original songs, Gotshar Temirdzhanov sax, Pavel Panfilov pno, Pavel Kortshagin bass, Vitali Igonin dr
CDs in planning/post production stage
Changes & Choices (original songs connected through free tonal improvisation and a narrated story) recorded with Roman Stolyar and Alexey Kruglov in Moscow/Russia in 2018, release second half of 2019
Naturally grey – solo album
Misha has written four musicals:
Misha wrote Musical in the Dark for Dialogue in the Dark Moscow. It will be premiered in June 2019 in Moscow.
Snake Poison, Plastic World and Silly & Rough were written for adolescents (Classes 6-12) at the German Embassy School DSM. Misha wrote the story, the screenplay and the music and directed the musicals with students of the school.
Misha has recorded and/or played with:
USA: Hendrik Meurkens (vibraphone, harmonica), Craig Handy (sax), Wallace Roney (trp), Orrin Evans (pno), Jim Riddle (pno), Itaiguara Brandao (bass), Luquez Curtiz (bass), Steve Varner (bass), Vince Ector (drums), and many others
Germany: Lionel Haas (pno), Mathias Claus (pno), Christian Eckhart (guitar), Mike Segal (sax), Jonathan Robinson (bass), Michael Kersting (dr), and others
Russia: Roman Stolyar (pno), Alexey Kruglov (sax), Anton Kotikov (sax), Valery Grokhovsky (piano), Vladimir Nesterenko (Pno, flute), Jakov Okun (pno, dr), Sergej Manoukian (voc, pno), Anton Revnjuk (bass), Makar Novikov (bass), Vladimir Chernitsyn (bass), Alexandr Mashin (dr), David Tkebutshava (dr) Sergej Baulin (sax), Denis Shapovalov (Cello) and many others