Mike has been a judge since 2018
Bitter Jester Music Festival Judge
For Mike Pope, music is an art that not only provides solace throughout life’s joys and challenges, but also can have a meaningful impact on the community in which he lives and works.
Born on Chicago’s west side in the Austin neighborhood, an area with one of the highest crime rates in the city, Mike was fortunate to find music at an early age. As he began to explore music through various community programs such as his church gospel choir as well as through the generosity of various mentors, Mike was able to use music as his escape from the drugs, gangs and violence that consumed his neighborhood.
As a young singer involved in the Chicago Children’s Choir, Mike had opportunities to perform with the Chicago Sinfonietta, the Lyric Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and at Carnegie Hall where Mike was a part of “From the Top,” a PBS special that highlights young artists. Audiences have included global leaders including the Dalai Lama, President Barack Obama and a host of international and domestic dignitaries. In 2012, Mike graduated from the Conservatory of Music at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI, with a Bachelor’s of Music degree in Vocal Performance.
Since graduation, Mike has had numerous opportunities to perform a variety of musical genres for a variety of audiences. He has sung the South African National Anthem with South African dignitaries at the Nelson Mandela Memorial Service, performed alongside Dr. Ysaye Barnwell of Sweet Honey in the Rock, and was a chorus member in a PBS film production of “A Christmas Carol: The Concert.” More recently, Mike was a featured chorus member in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s production of “Porgy and Bess,” conducted by Bobby McFerrin. Mike also performs as the lead male vocalist in a Chicago-based 13-piece big band called Swing Assembly.
In his spare time, Mike continues to perform and teach voice lessons to individuals, school groups and church choirs in the Fox Valley area. His teaching philosophy incorporates a strong foundation in classical voice training and a solid understanding of vocal health and technique as fundamental components for successfully performing music. By creating a safe space for people to achieve their full potential through music, Mike believes anyone can then find their voice and become a more confident performer and singer, no matter what style they prefer to sing.