Michael Culligan head shot

Michael Culligan

Instrument: Percussion

Education: Bachelor of Science in Music Education from Duquesne University, Master of Music in Performance from Temple University

Hometown: Glen Ellyn, Illinois

Current neighborhood: Hyde Park

Joined the CSO in 2015

Favorite things to do in Cincinnati: Cycling, exploring new restaurants, coffee shops, and breweries.

Activities and organizations outside of the CSO: Teaching percussion at Northern Kentucky University. Artistic Director for concert:nova. I also own a small business, Culligan Sticks, specializing in creating handmade timpani and gong sticks.

Hobbies: Playing defense for the Cincinnati Huns Hockey Team. Cheering on the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Funniest concert memory? 
1) I was playing Carnegie Hall with the Pittsburgh Symphony in 2014 (one year before I started with the CSO), and I was assigned to play off-stage chimes on the final scene from "Dialogue of the Carmelites" and walk on-stage into a tunnel of gongs as it went directly into the next piece. While I was off-stage waiting for my entrance, actor F. Murray Abraham (who was narrating the second half) stood next to me to wait. I leaned over, handed him the chime mallets and said "Hey, do you mind covering me? I gotta hit the can..." He laughed and said he had experience as a carpenter. I took them back, played the part, and walked out on stage to the tunnel of gongs in sold out Carnegie Hall. One of the more surreal concert experiences!

2) We were recording the original version of Varese's "Ameriques" for our latest album "Transatlantic", which features 149 musicians including 21 percussionists. Anyone who has done these sessions knows how intense they are--we only had 3 hours to record this very challenging piece after a 3 hour session earlier in the day for "American in Paris". Let's say the tension was high. There was one minute left of session time, so Louis said "let's go back and get the opening again". The piece starts with a very soft alto flute solo. Well, one of our percussionists didn't hear where we were starting, and came in FULL BLAST on a crow call. Everyone erupted in laughter, and then we were out of time. Perfect way to end the session that resulted in our Grammy-nominated album!

Strangest place I've ever practiced? It has to be the Badwater Basin in Death Valley...the lowest point in North America!