Born in Phoenix, AZ, Abels attended the University of Southern California, studying with James Hopkins and Robert Linn. Later he studied West African music with Alfred Ladzekpo at the California Institute for the Arts. He currently serves as Director of Music for New Roads School in Santa Monica.
Michael Abels is best-known for his scores for the Oscar-winning film GET OUT, and for Jordan Peele’s US, for which Abels won the World Soundtrack Award, the Jerry Goldsmith Award, a Critics Choice nomination, an Image Award nomination, and multiple critics awards. The hip-hop influenced score for US was short-listed for the Oscar, and was even named “Score of the Decade” by online publication The Wrap.
As a concert composer, Abels has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet The Composer, and the Sphinx Organization, among others. His orchestral works have been performed by the Chicago Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and many more. As guest conductor of GET OUT IN CONCERT, Abels has led orchestras like the National Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony. Several of his orchestral works have been recorded by the Chicago Sinfonietta on the Cedille label, including Delights & Dances and Global Warming. Abels is co-founder of the Composers Diversity Collective, an advocacy group to increase visibility of composers of color in film, game and streaming media. Upcoming projects include the ballet for concert band FALLING SKY for Butler University, AT WAR WITH OURSELVES for the Kronos Quartet, and the Hugh Jackman film BAD EDUCATION for HBO.