(photo © Ho Hon Leung)
Joseph Michael Pignato is a composer, improviser, and music education scholar with extensive graduate, undergraduate, secondary, and distance teaching experience. He holds the position of Associate Professor in the Department of Music at the State University of New York, Oneonta, where he teaches music industry courses, beat production, and two ensembles that perform experimental music and improvised rock.
Pignato has received numerous awards for excellence in scholarship, creative activity, advising, and teaching. Notable recognitions include the 2015 Susan Sutton Smith Award for Academic Excellence, Recognition as an international “Thought Leader” in the field of music in the SUNY Oneonta President’s report to the SUNY Chancellor, and the 2012 State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities. The Chancellor’s Award is the highest academic award bestowed on teaching faculty in the SUNY system. Additionally, Pignato has been recognized with the Student Association award for Faculty Advisor of the Year; was twice recognized as “Outstanding Faculty” by the SUNY Oneonta Inter-Greek Council; and has been awarded multiple grants for travel, professional development, research, and creative works.
As a musician, Pignato has given performances and clinics internationally. He leads Bright Dog Red, an improvising collective that explores the intersections of free improvisation, electronica, jazz, hip hop, psychedelia, and noise music. Bright Dog Red has been described as “Mahavishnu meets Digable Planets” by indie music veteran Paul Shulman, as “Electric Ahmad” by storied jazz publicist Don Lucoff of DL Media, and “ahead of the game” by Jordan Taylor Hill of Revolution Radio.
In addition to Bright Dog Red, Pignato is a member of Martin Gadget, a quartet with Israeli musicians Ilan Green, Yoni Niv, and Lior Pinsky. He is also in demand as a drummer, working under the moniker u.joe. DJs, producers, MCs, and remix artists, including internationally renowned DJ M A N I K, rising producer Mr. Temmtation, MC Righteous, and electronic musicians Palemen and Omsign, have employed his drumming.
Gareth Dylan Smith, a London-based writer aptly described Pignato’s drumming, “Swings like Bonham hugging Questlove.” For nearly a decade, Pignato played with atom3, a highly regarded electro-acoustic trio featuring the late Orlando Legname. He continues to enjoy ongoing collaborations with Paul Geluso, the trio’s other surviving member.
Pignato’s original music has been noted for its “intriguing” conceptual characteristics (Haaretz News Service) and “haunting” (Charger Bulletin) musical elements. Pignato’s compositions have been premiered, performed, or exhibited as part of installations in North America, Europe, the Mid East, and beyond. His scores blend traditional notation and graphic symbols with the intent of eliciting idiosyncratic interpretations. Recent pieces exploit distributed computing and web-based communication protocols to link performers working in disparate locations.
The MusraraMix Festival in Jerusalem has described his work for distributed ensembles as “fascinating experimental collaboration” that could “broaden the horizons of interdisciplinary web composition.” Consequently, Pignato enjoys ongoing collaborations with the Musrara School, the Festival’s sponsor, and noted Israeli composers Kiki Keren-Huss and Lior Pinsky.
In 2012, “Paprika King,” one of Pignato’s most widely distributed scores, was featured in the Streaming Museum’s John Cage Centennial Tribute/Composers Now festival, as part of a multimedia presentation projected across high visibility public screens on seven continents, including the Reuters and NASDAQ screens in Times Square, New York, Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia, seven locations in the United Kingdom, and locations in the United States, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Shanghai, St. Petersburg, Tokyo, Seoul, Johannesburg, Berlin, and Antarctica. The distinctive graphics of “Paprika King” inspired Danish designer Bitten Fangel to develop an original font of the same name.
As a scholar, Pignato has presented research on five continents. He has published on composition, improvisation, music teaching and learning, music technology, and drumming. His publications appear in peer reviewed journals, edited volumes, anthologies, and practitioner journals. A full list of publications is available in the Research section of this website. Pignato serves as one of the principal investigators for the Music Learning Profiles Project, an international research initiative that documents music learning that occurs outside the bounds of traditional institutional learning.
In addition to his scholarly and creative activities, Pignato has been recognized as a “musician, educator, and music business visionary” in Tape Op Magazine. Drawing on more than 25 years of experience in music business and media—including management positions at N2K Incorporated, BMG Classics, RCA Victor, ECM Records, CMP Records, and Latin Percussion—Pignato consults organizations in the areas of music and music education. Recent projects include consulting music product companies on product development and distribution and consulting colleges on the development of degree programs in popular music, music industry, and recording technology. Pignato, a member of the Modern Band Think Tank, an advisory for the not for profit organization Little Kids Rock, has also served as an advisor to Steven Van Zandt (Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and HBO’s The Soprano’s) on the early stages of development for Rock and Roll, An American Story; a rock music curriculum published by Scholastic, Inc.
Beyond SUNY Oneonta, Pignato facilitates graduate courses and supervises doctoral research in the College of Fine Arts, Department of Music Education at Boston University. He is affiliated faculty at the Musrara School in Jerusalem, Israel where he serves as point person for international collaborations between the Israeli art school and SUNY Oneonta. In the past, he has supervised undergraduate honors dissertations for the B.A. in Contemporary Music program at London’s Institute for Contemporary Music and has served on the faculties of Ramapo College of New Jersey teaching music industry, Bergen Community College teaching graduate courses in education, and the Hoboken Charter School, where he served as founding faculty member and lead teacher for humanities and music.
Pignato holds degrees from Boston University (D.M.A.), where he was a Tanglewood Scholar, New York University (M.A.), where he studied composition with Dinu Ghezzo, and the University of Massachusetts (B.A.), where he studied composition with Yusef Lateef. In addition, Pignato has studied drum set with noted pedagogue Sal La Rocca and drum icon Max Roach. He endorses Taye Drums, T-Cymbals Handmade Turkish Cymbals, Boso Drumsticks, and Dynaton Drumheads.
contact j.pignato [at] oneonta.edu
J.M. Pignato/East 8th Street Music