Michael Shay '07

The Just Desserts

Prescott College AffiliationAlumni
ProgramEco-Ecology
Area of ExpertiseMusic, Organic Farming
Current JobProfessional Musician

It’s a bakery-hot Prescott summer evening, but the Raven Café is packed with folks who don’t seem to mind the heat for a second. The Just Desserts are cooking up a storm, and the crowd is hungry for what they’re dishing up.

Michael Shay ’07, impossibly tall and lean, with a winsome, all-American grin, wraps around his cello in a way that makes it look almost like a violin. Alternately bowing and plucking, singing, and stomping, he evokes gypsy encampments, mid-century dance halls, classical concerts, and the Beatles.

The visual effect is enhanced by Lisa Shawley, the other half of Just Desserts. She’s also impossibly tall and lean in a whisper of a slip dress, Shirley Temple curls, matching dimples, and an accordion. The effect is practically Rockwellian.

On the dance floor at least three generations of Prescottonians shake, gyrate, bounce, and slide to the continent- hopping grooves and licks. Belly dancers, swing dancers, and even a bit of flamenco make their way to the dance floor during this most unpredictable of evenings out.

It’s a bittersweet homecoming for Michael, who graduated in July of 2007 with a degree in music. Since finishing his coursework, the classically trained cellist and self-taught multi-instrumentalist has been a force on the Austin, Texas, music scene (his hometown). He’s almost too busy teaching, composing, and playing cello and other instruments for multiple bands in live performance and recordings to graduate. Michael performs with the Michael Shay Band, a “six-piece rock/jazz/jam band that features some of Austin, Texas’s most respected and progressive musicians.”

They just finished recording their first CD. Michael has also contributed music to the Academy Award-nominated film Become the Sky, and has played with Eliza Gilkyson, Carolyn Wonderland, David Amram, Johnsmith, Jonathan Byrd, Anais Mitchell, Brian Joseph, Libby Kirkpatrick, Zoe Lewis, Zilla, Kacy Crowley, Nathan Hamilton, Paula Nelson, Rachel Ries, Idgy Vaughn, Stanley Jordan, Trish Murphy, Two High String Band, and more.

After attending Prescott College in the 90s Michael undertook “a four year period of looking into the possibilities of a non-musical career,” beginning with courses in creative writing and environmental studies.

He moved from Prescott to Ecuador and eventually Venezuela to explore yet another passion; organic agriculture. But Michael really “came home” during a stint in Denver, where he cared for his grandmother.

“During that time, I started a successful band, which helped convince me to be a professional musician after all,” he said.

Now, Prescott is a bit of a second home. Not only does he have many friends here, but he has accrued a growing following.

“I've been greatly inspired and influenced by my peers and friends at PC,” he said. “Everyone who graduated and went on to farm or do activist work, art, outdoor leadership, writing, spiritual work, etc., are great examples to me of the many wonderful things we can do with our lives.”

REPRINTED FROM TRANSITIONS  2008