Michael Mortilla began working as a full time professional composer in 1976 after having worked as a dishwasher, landscape assistant, stamping part numbers on phonograph needles, in various retail and stock clerk jobs, as an information operator (later as a business representative) for the Bell System. His musical life started much earlier when he was taught a few piano pieces by family members at age 4. By age 8 he selected percussion as his instrument of choice and continued to study and play drums until graduating from high school. He sang in both church choir and as a vocal soloist in many high school choral concerts and as an actor/singer in several theater productions.
After a series of basement rock bands and learning a few more instruments, he began an advocation as a solo lead guitarist in the style of Jimi Hendrix, and in 1969 he attended the Woodstock Festival at age 15, unchaperoned. A few months after graduating high school, he was invited back to his alma mater to conduct a theater orchestra and remained on as a faculty music advisor for the next 6 years - conducting, arranging, and as music director in many school and community productions, skipping college entirely. During this time, Michael briefly studied piano and composition privately with Morton Estrin (who also trained Billy Joel), Avaraham Sternklar, and Albert Tepper. Mr. Mortilla also apprenticed and subsequently worked for many years as a piano tuner/technician and was a member of the Piano Technician's Guild.
After a 1 year stint as an assistant stage manager for Harry Chapin's PAF Playhouse, Michael began working with choreographer Martha Graham and soon became the company pianist. He collaborated as composer for Miss Graham and many of her company members. Michael toured internationally with Graham and her company, and scored several works for her which were performed at the Reagan White House, at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, on PBS in the Great Performances series as well as on the McNeil/Lehrer Report. These works continued to be aired on The Arts Channel nationally where Michael can be seen at the piano (with a bit more hair) and with Miss Graham rehearsing her company.
Michael became ensconced in the New York dance and theater scene working with the Alive Ailey School of Contemporary American Dance, the Julliard School, Ballet Hispanico, and the High School for the Performing Arts. In 1984 he was granted a Teaching License for the NYC Public Schools and was offered a position as the Director of Music for Dance but opted instead to accept a full time position at the University of California where he was on the faculty and was Principal Musician & Resident Composer in theater and dance for 14 years.
In 2000 Mr. Mortilla relocated to Los Angeles where he currently works composing and designing sound. He works extensively with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and has received numerous commissions from them scoring restored silent films including Seventh Heaven, The Gaucho, Upstream, Humoresque, and The White Shadow. Michael also scores works for TV, radio, and the concert stage and continues to work in dance and theater as well as in commercial and promotional productions. He has received commissions from the Olympic Games Arts Festival, The Chicago Symphony (where he also was piano soloist in his own work) and has received numerous grants and funding from the American Music Center, Meet the Composer, and other foundations and individuals. Michael also continues a long working relationship with the Santa Barbara County Department of Education Children's Creative Workshop, bringing live music with silent films to public schools and libraries along the central coast of California.
Mr. Mortilla is also known for his scores that accompany The Master Mystery which feature magician Harry Houdini in a set of silent film serials, The Chaplin Mutuals on home video as well as on TV worldwide, and for scoring the historic world's first internet broadcast of a feature film with sound - The Rink, presented in association with the American Film Institute and Film Preservation Associates. As of late 2011, Michael Mortilla has scored and designed sound for just over 1000 productions and maintains a vigorous live performance schedule nationally.