Michael Zerang was born in Chicago, Illinois, and is a first-generation American of Assyrian decent. He has been a musician, composer, and producer since 1976, focusing on improvised music, free jazz, contemporary composition, puppet theater, experimental theater, and international musical forms.

Michael Zerang photo by Peter Gannushkin 2017
Photo by Peter Gannushkin, 2017

As a percussionist, composer and collaborator, Zerang has over one hundred and thirty-five titles in his discography and has toured nationally and internationally to 39 countries since 1981, and works with and ever-widening pool of multi-disciplinary collaborators.

Beginning in 2004, Zerang began to work with musicians and artists living in the Middle East. He traveled to perform, hold workshops, and study, to Yemen, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Morocco.

In November, 2007, Zerang played his first concert in Poland. Between 2007 – 2015, he had performed over 100 concerts. Several of these concerts where from existing ensembles that visited Poland, but the majority of the concert were in collaboration with Polish musicians and artists.

Michael founded and was the artistic director of the Link’s Hall Performance Series in Chicago from 1985-1989 where he produced over 300 concerts of jazz, traditional ethnic folk music, electronic music, and other forms of forward thinking music. He was a Board Member of Links Hall from 1989 – 2013. He continued to produce concerts at Cafe Urbus Orbis from 1994-1996, and at his own space, The Candlestick Maker in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood, from 2001 – 2005.

As a composer, Zerang has collaborated with contemporary theater, dance, and other multidisciplinary forms and has received three Joseph Jefferson Awards for Original Music Composition in Theater, in collaboration with Redmoon Theater, in 1996, 1998, and 2000.

Joe McPhee, Michael Zerang, Kent Kessler and Peter Brötzmann - photo by Markus Lackinger
With Joe McPhee, Kent Kessler and Peter Brötzmann – photo by Markus Lackinger

Michael has taught as a guest artist at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in performance technique, sound design, and sound/music as it relates to puppetry; rhythmic analysis for dancers at The Dance Center of Columbia College, Northwestern University, and MoMing Dance and Arts Center; courses in Composer/Choreographer Collaborations at Northwestern University; music to children at The Jane Adams Hull House. He currently holds workshops in improvisational music.

Translated bio:


  • School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL – Guest Artist in Invented Instrument workshop (2003)
  • Gulbenkian Museum / Augusto Jazz Festival, Lisbon, Portugal – Percussion Workshops (2000)
  • Northwestern University, Chicago, IL – Advanced Course in Composer / Choreographer collaborations, (1997 / 1998)
  • School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL – Guest Artist in Sound and Puppetry workshop
  • School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL – Guest Artist in performance technique with emphasis on movement and vocal skills, 1981
  • Columbia College Dance Department, Chicago, IL – Guest Artist in percussion technique and rhythmic analysis, 1983
  • Uptown Hull House, Chicago, IL – Taught children, ages 4-12, principles of sound texture and rhythm as part of a summer arts program that brought dance, music and visual art together culminating in a final performance by the children, 1983
  • Fort Wayne Dance Collective, Fort Wayne, IN – Held a workshop stressing vocal technique and movement for a dance collective. A lecture demonstration and performance were also given, 1984
  • Deer Trail Collective, Gary, IN – Taught sound / movement workshop to a group of poets under the direction of Ron Wray, 1982
  • Private Instruction, Rhythmic Analysis for Dancers; Percussion Technique; Music Improvisation


Elastic Arts Foundation Board of Directors 2016 – 2017
Curious Theater Branch Board of Directors 1998 – 1999
Experimental Sound Studio President-Board of Directors 1989 – 1992
Links Hall, Inc. Board of Directors 1989 – 2013
Links Hall, Inc. Managing Director/Development 2003 – 2004
Illinois Arts Council Advisory Panel Member (Multi-Arts) 1989 – 1991
Chicago Office of Fine Art Advisory Panel Member (City Arts I, II) 1990
Chicago Office of Fine Art Advisory Panel Member (CAAP Music) 1991, 93, 95
Randolph Street Gallery Selection Committee Member (NPN Showcase) 1991
Ragdale Artists Colony Selection Committee Member – Music Composition 1992 – 1996
The Children’s School Board of Directors 1997 – 1998

Educational Background

  • Roosevelt University – Chicago Music CollegeAn advanced course of study in music theory, composition and performance skills, 1978-1982
  • Wright College – Chicago Liberal Arts and Music courses, 1977-1978
  • Private Study and Workshops, 1979-1986
  • Percussion Skill – Edward Poremba, Adwar Hanna, Edward Zerang
  • Music Composition – Robert Lombardo, Don Malone, Jon Gibson, Peter Van Riper, Karl Berger
  • Movement Training – Simone Forti, Nancy Topf, David Appel, Eiko and Koma, Alan Ptashek, Ping Chong