Michael Stairs was born in Milo, Maine and began studying piano in Presque Isle at age ten. After high school in Erie, PA, he went on to Westminster Choir College in Princeton New Jersey. There he was the first student accompanist for the 300 voice Symphonic Choir and played rehearsals under the batons of great conductors such as Leopold Stokowski, Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein. He studied organ with George Markey and Alexander McCurdy and improvisation with Alec Wyton. He then went on to earn the coveted Artist’s Diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music, studying organ with Alexander McCurdy and piano with Vladimir Sokoloff.
Michael retired in June 2012 after twenty five years of teaching Upper School Music at The Haverford School, where he was awarded the first Grace and Mahlon Buck Chair in the Performing Arts. Under his direction, his vocal ensembles, including The Notables, toured Switzerland, Bavaria, Austria, Normandy, southern England and Wales, France, northern Italy, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden and Bermuda. In June of 2007, The Notables and The Bryn Mawr Girl Choir were heard in the Madeleine and Notre Dame Cathedrals in Paris as well as cathedrals in Chartres and Lyon.
Stairs retired in January of 2008 as organist/choirmaster at Bryn Mawr’s Church of the Redeemer after serving twenty-five years in that post. He has now returned as Organist Emeritus under the leadership of Dr. Michael Diorio. He continues to assist Peter Richard Conte on a regular basis for concerts on the world’s larges organ: that of the Wanamaker Grand Court at Macy’s in central Philadelphia.
Riccardo Muti appointed Stairs to do the organ work for the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1985. He has since been a featured soloist with this ensemble in various locations ranging from New York’s Carnegie Hall to Tokyo’s Suntory Hall. Maestros Christoph Eschenbach and Charles Dutoit featured Michael in several concerts on Verizon Hall’s Dobson organ, the largest mechanical action concert hall pipe organ in North America. For the 2013-14 season of the Philadelphia orchestra, he will be featured in compositions by Muhly, Franck, Fauré, Saint-Saens, Rachmaninoff, Strauss, and Respighi.
Michael serves on the boards of the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ, The Garrigues Foundation and The Presser Foundation where he chairs the Advancement Committee.