Michael Sollis is artistic director and composer of The Griffyn Ensemble, Canberra’s premier chamber ensemble with a national reputation of innovative programming. He is a regularly performed and commissioned composer who writes extensively for professional, amateur, and youth musicians and ensembles. He is also a published researcher within the interdisciplinary fields of anthropology-composition-linguistics.
Sollis was brought up in Canberra studying under Jim Cotter and Larry Sitsky at the ANU School of Music. In 2007 he received the University Medal from the ANU Department of Anthropology and School of Music for research on the relationship between speech and song in a genre of chanted stories in the Papua New Guinea Highlands. He has since been published in The Australian Journal of Linguistics. Anthropological research into the relationship between music and language have been formative in his own compositional language and have influenced much of his work.
Equally important to his compositional language is community involvement and social relevance. Sollis works with and writes for a range of amateur and youth ensembles. He currently directs the Canberra Mandolin Orchestra and YMS Boys Choir, and has worked with many other community organisations in the Australian Capital Territory. Sollis is particularly interested in the relationship between so-called ‘folk’ and ‘art’ musics, and has expressed this through investigation and composition in the Musical Theatre genre, including Sollis’s Comic Book Opera, written with Liz Argall for over 250 student performers and performed in January 2009.
Through the accessibility of his music Sollis has been a strong advocate for contemporary composition. Between 2005 and 2007 Sollis founded and directed the SoundACT program, which saw over 1000 Canberra school children premiere new works, and several works written by school children performed by a professional ensemble. Sollis is an advocate for musical activity more broadly through currently chairing the Australian Youth Music Council, and his involvement on the ACT Cultural Council and ACT Music Educators Network. He is also ACT Manager of Musica Viva.
Sollis has been composer in residence for The Australian Voices and Music for Everyone. His music has been performed by many ensembles including the Australian String Quartet, The Griffyn Ensemble, dominantSEVEN, exhAust, Tucana Flute Quartet, the Canberra Mandolin Orchestra, the Ku-Ring-Gai Philharmonic Orchestra, the Queensland Conservatorium Brass Band, and many schools in the ACT region.