Michael Rice was born in Monticello, Arkansas (1953) and raised in Watson, Arkansas. In his youth he studied piano under Sister M. Genevieve, a Benedictine nun in nearby McGehee, Arkansas. His first professional job was in the summers of his high school years playing ragtime piano at the tourist theme park Dogpatch, USA, in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. In 1971 he entered the University of Arkansas where he focused on classical piano. While in college he was a member of the Razorback Marching Band, The Uarkettes, (a vocal performance ensemble), the University Symphony, and the Lambda Chi Alpha social fraternity.
Upon graduation in 1977, he relocated to New York City where he continued composition studies with Elie Sigmeister and Lehman Engel through his BMI Musical Theatre Workshop. In New York he was pianist for the National Dance Institute, founded by Jacques d’Amboise and appears performing in the Emile Ardolino film HE MAKES ME FEEL LIKE DANCING, highlighting d’Amboise and his dance program- the 1983 Oscar winner for Best Documentary Film. He was the original musical director and arranger for the off-Broadway hit NUNSENSE which won the Outer Critic Circle Award for Best Musical in 1985 and was musical director for Dick Gallagher’s HAVE I GOT A GIRL FOR YOU. As a conductor/pianist he also worked on the national Broadway tours of CATS, PETER PAN (starring Cathy Rigby), JOSEPH AND HIS AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, and CAMELOT. In regional theatres he has conducted at Ford’s Theatre, The Alley Theatre, The Muny, ACT, Sacramento Music Circus, Signature Theatre, Meadowbrook Theatre, Papermill Playhouse, The Cape Playhouse, Flat Rock Playhouse, and Providence’s Trinity Rep, where he is resident musical director.
He composed dance music arrangements for the 1983 production of Radio City Music Hall’s GOTTA GETAWAY, directed by Larry Fuller, and for the 1988 film BERT RIGBY, YOU’RE A FOOL, directed by Carl Reiner, starring Robert Lindsay.
As a composer/lyricist, he adapted with Eric Bentley, Brecht’s THE GOOD WOMAN OF SETZUAN (1985) and AMERICAN BEAUTY(1988-a valentine to Southern beauty pageants), both of which premiered at the Arkansas Rep and were directed by Cliff Fannin Baker. He recently (2017) premied his musical drama DURING WIND AND RAIN, (A Delta Family Album) with libretto by Margaret Jones Bolsterli. The story is set in both author’s hometown of Watson, Arkansas and chronicles a ten year period of librettist Jones' family history. (The featured Yancopin Bridge over the Arkansas River on his home page is a mile from the setting of the work.)
Rice continues to perform and work in the New York City area with vocal artist Klea Blackhurst, and has done musical arrangements for soprano Deborah Voigt.