Musician, composer, arranger, producer, educator
Sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor & baritone saxophones; electric saxophone; wind-synthesizer; clarinet; flutes, recorders, penny whistles and various ethnic flutes.
Since the early 1980s, Mike Skinner has been in demand as a side-player, soloist, band-leader, composer and arranger moving effortlessly between the rock, R&B, country, blues, jazz, bebop, big band, Latin, theatre, and art scenes. Skinner has backed an incredibly diverse array of entertainers on stage, recordings and film. Bob Dylen, Roy Orbison, Ian Hunter, Bob Newhart, and Bo Didley are among the famous artists Mike Skinner has accompanied.
During his high school years, Mike performed with a number of ensembles including the Ontario Youth Band and the National Youth Band of Canada as well as several semi-pro dance bands that performed around Barrie and Muskoka. When Mike was a teenager his neighbour was tenor sax star Art Ellefson – a featured soloist with John Dankworth & Cleo Laine, Phil Nimmons, Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson, and The Beatles. Skinner pestered Ellefson for lessons until Art became Mike’s mentor.
In 1980, Mike began studying jazz and contemporary music at Humber College in Toronto. He was soon drafted by the blues institution Downchild Brothers Donny and Hock Walsh of Downchild were Akroyd and Belushi‘s inspiration for the Blues Brothers; the comedy duo recorded three Downchild hits on the debut Blues Brothers album.
After two years of paying his dues as a touring musician, Mike finished a second year of studies at Humber financed by playing in the Toronto club, theatre and session scenes. During his third year in college, a teachers’ strike gave Mike the time to book some extra gigs. By the time classes resumed, Skinner was touring Europe and filming a television show in Prague with another Canadian institution, the country-rock-bluegrass band, The Good Brothers. Skinner spent a couple of years on the road playing with The Good Brothers, interspersed with breaks for session work in Toronto, Nashville and Los Angeles. Mike is featured on the 1986 album “Delivering the Goods”.
In 1986, Mike toured with veteran British rock-stars Roy Young and Ian Hunter. Backing Bob Dylan in the 1987 movie “Hearts of Fire”, Skinner played alongside some of the top session players from New York, Los Angeles, and London including Chris Botti, Reb Beach, and Timmy Cappello.
In 1987, The Partland Brothers hired Skinner just as the band’s single “Soul City” hit the top-ten charts in the US and was named “Song of the Summer” by Newsweek. Skinner is featured in the band’s second video “One Chance“. Mike toured North America with The Partland Brothers opening shows for The Moody Blues and The Beach Boys, headlining concerts with Al Green and Richard Marx, and appearing on American network television shows. But, the flash-in-the-pan stardom of The Partland Brothers fizzled quickly.
As well as performing in major concert venues, clubs, and recording studios around the world, music has taken Mike Skinner to some unusual places. He has performed for United Nations Peacekeepers in combat zones in Cambodia, Bosnia Herzegovina, and Croatia and for Canadian Armed Forces personnel stationed in Alert, close to the North Pole.
Mike Skinner’s performances in the Toronto area over the years include live and/or recording sessions with Rita Chiarelli, Dutch Mason, Beau Dixon, Liberty Silver, Jeanine Mackie, Danny Marks, George Oliver, Joni Wilson, Laura Hutton, Kev Cooke Progressive Blues Band, Grant Lyle, The River Street Band, The Meteors, Bleeker Street, Bad to the Bone, Kenny King and Rockin’ Horse, Terry Sumsion, The Royz, Uptown Swing Band, George Lake Big Band, Advocats Big Band, Bob Cary Orchestra, Swing Shift, Brian Rose Band, Kim & Company, Bob Clegg Octet, The Jazz Mechanics, Orchestra Fantasia, Phoenix Project, Harrison Kennedy and the Rockin’ Hurricanes, Long John Baldry, Ronnie Hawkins, Ricki Rumball and the Believers, Alan Frew, The Kings, The Deadly Snakes, and many more.
Beginning in the early 1990s, Skinner stretched out as a composer writing numerous works including the scores for ten theatrical productions and several films, several of which have won Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, and Laidlaw Foundation awards. He has performed his original music with a number of bebop, jazz-fusion, worldbeat, jazz, and postmodern jazz ensembles including his bands, Felonius Punk, Könstant Flux and the art-jazz ensemble Mimikeda, which featured Mike alongside Michael Monis, Kevin Cooke, and David Monis.
In addition to two self-produced Könstant Flux CDs, a Mimikeda CD, and a collaborative CD with Kevin Cooke, Mike produced projects for Peter Davidson, Don Denaburg, and FACTOR award-winning projects for Kenny King, Carmen Westphal, and Mary Beth Gignac.
In 2010, Mike Skinner joined Doug Pipher, Paul Schofield, and Paul Mifsud to form the Allsax4tet, the only full-range saxophone quartet in Canada. This saxophone quartet plays diverse musical styles from classical to jazz & popular music on the full range of contrabass, bass, baritone, tenor, alto, soprano, sopranino, & “soprillo” sopranissimo saxophones.
Mike’s work took a political turn, in the 1990s, when he began to play with the social justice activist bands Justice, Break Syndical, Solidad, Libertad and Macayo.
Not content to be an uninformed activist-artist, Skinner earned an Honours BA Specialist in Peace and Conflict Studies from the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Toronto, in 2005, and an MA in Political Science at York University, in 2007. Mike is currently conducting a research project in Guatemala and Afghanistan as a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at York University and Researcher at the York Centre for International and Security Studies. He is frequently consulted by policy-makers and journalists and he has appeared on numerous radio and television shows including as an international affairs commentator during the final season of the Michael Coren Show broadcast across Canada on the CTS television network. You can read some of Mike’s academic work at his blog Michael Skinner Research, his academic website, and in the books Empire’s Ally: Canada and the War in Afghanistan, Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism, and Political Economy of Rare Earth Elements.
Over the winter of 2013-14 Mike performed in the house band backing up guest entertainers on the Holland America Line ships MS Zuiderdam and MS Eurodam. He then joined the Amsterdam Orchestra to circumnavigate the world on the MS Amsterdam World Cruise 2015. Skinner circumnavigated the world again in 2016 performing with the Queens Room Orchestra aboard all three ships of the Cunard fleet: Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth.
Mike has a teaching studio in the Toronto Beach-Leslieville neighbourhood where new saxophone students at any level from beginner to advanced are always welcome.
Contact Mike Skinner at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nice web site and bio. Say hi to Debbie and Kira.
Wow – impressive bio & website!!
Maybe I’ll book that lesson….
Hey there It’s a blast from the past (20+years!) Give me a call Luv to talk, catch up , what you are doing presently cheers Randall Headon (905)6491139
Great to hear from you. We’ll talk soon. I’m at 416-461-6531
Keep on playing – what fun we had on the ms Amsterdam! Loved the music of the Amsterdam Orchestra and your music there.
It was a pleasure meeting you and Randy. Deb & I enjoyed your friendship and hospitality immensely.
Just took another look – you continue to wow! We would like to try Cunard. And you must put photographer on your resume.