Bassist and educator Mike Forfia’s work is inseparable from his soul: relentless, compassionate, immersed in history, and pragmatic. A native of Akron, Ohio, he integrates ideas from his travels to captivate audiences and highlight beautiful aspects of humanity.
First prize winner of the Scott LaFaro Jazz Bass Competition, finalist in the 2016 Ron Carter jazz bass competition, and winner of the Rayburn Wright Prize at the Eastman School of Music, Mike delivers vivid performances in both intimate spaces and major concert venues.
From the intimate music community in Akron, Ohio, Mike credits his influences to an art and music boom born of a Midwestern “rustbelt” revival. It is a cultural bloom that has simultaneously drawn on the rich history of the Great Lakes region while incorporating new influences and global perspectives. While a student in northeast Ohio, his diverse palate and skills afforded performance opportunities in the region’s most esteemed venues and he became familiar with such diverse musical settings as free-improvisation, Broadway musicals, CCM and gospel music, and contemporary, traditional, and big band jazz.
Mike has shared the stage extensively with Christian Howes, the International Society of Bassists, and the Glenn Miller Orchestra. His artistry draws on experiences with such luminaries as Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Adam Rogers, George Mraz, Bill Holman, Jim McNeely, Scott Colley, Joe Martin, Freddy Cole, Nestor Torres, Alexis Cole, Jiggs Whigham, Dave Glasser, and Michael Spiro. He has performed with the Erie Philharmonic, the touring cast of Wicked, and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra.
Mike sees education and social advocacy as core elements in his mission. He has collaborated with the youth education efforts of Eastman@Keuka and the International Society of Bassists’ Young Bassists programs. He has served as faculty at multi-generational music workshops at the University of Nebraska Lincoln Bass Day, the Creative Strings Workshop, and the Rochester Bass Retreat and has also been a guest educator at elementary, intermediate, and secondary schools in New York, Michigan, and Ohio, as well as in special youth programs on cruise ships in Europe and the South Pacific. A graduate of the University of Akron (BM ’12) and the Eastman School of Music (MM ’16) he is the product of the gracious mentorship of Tracy Rowell, Jack Schantz, Jeff Campbell, Bill Dobbins, Harold Danko, Dave Rivello, Dariusz Terefenko, and Clay Jenkins.
Communication is central to Mike’s artistic pursuits and he engages with his local community through a variety of arts leadership and production activities in addition to music. He worked with WAPS 91.3 The Summit FM in Akron, Ohio in various production capacities for the better part of a decade. There he produced PSAs, testimonials, and interviews for the WAPS HD1, HD2, HD3, and HD4 channels. While at the Eastman School of Music he curated and produced season two of Jazz@Eastman – Past, Present, and Future, a weekly hour-long podcast featuring music and stories from the Sibley Music Archives and Eastman’s global alumni network. While at Eastman he also served an internship with University Health Services in the physical therapy office, providing assistance for the Keys To Healthy Music course. There he composed a physiological quieting sequence, integrated PT resources into social media and cloud based systems, and organized student health fairs at the student living center.
As a fellow in the Eastman School of Music Arts Leadership Certificate Program from 2014-2016, he followed a varied curriculum of entrepreneurial and social studies relevant to the arts industry. The program included digital marketing, leadership issues in music, fund raising, arts media and promotion, keys to healthy musicianship, and featured regular guest speakers and presentations.
Upon completing his master’s degree and ALP certificate, Mike Forfia was the recipient of the Eastman Arts Leadership Program’s 2016 Post-Graduate Internship award. For the following year he served in the jazz ministry at “The First Church Of Jazz,” Saint Peter’s Lutheran Church in New York City. There he assisted with educational programming, promotion, event management, scheduling, and a variety of operational activities. He co-directed Jazz 4 All, an adult community jazz workshop ensemble, and directed all operations and volunteer coordination for 46th annual All Nite Soul jazz festival.
He currently resides in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn and performs and teaches regularly on the east coast and in the Midwest.