APU Professor Sings on Golden Globe-Winning and Oscar-Nominated Film Dune

by Peter Cooley

Star Wars, Star Trek, I Am Legend, X-Men, Men In Black, Jurassic World—just a few of the many major motion picture scores that Azusa Pacific University professor Michael Geiger, MFA, adjunct professor, School of Music, associate director, Men's Chorale, has performed on throughout his 40-year musical career. Recently, Geiger’s vocals were featured in the film and soundtrack of the latest cinematic adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel, Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve. Geiger worked on a team under the direction of award-winning composer and arranger Hans Zimmer, who received a Golden Globe award and Oscar nomination for his work on the project.

As a professional vocalist and musician in the Los Angeles area, Geiger has performed with prominent groups such as the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Los Angeles Opera Chorus, as well as for film score composers on more than 200 feature films. He worked for 15 years as a vocalist at Disneyland (Dapper Dans and Voices of Liberty), and performed more than 2,000 shows for K-12 public schools with the Los Angeles Music Center on Tour. Geiger is currently a session singer and voice-over actor represented by the Screen Actors Guild, as well as a faculty member teaching voice science/pedagogy and applied voice at APU.

Geiger notes two key aspects that constitute his passion for music. He expresses his love for musical collaboration with the concept of harmony. “I see myself as a professional collaborator. Music can’t work in a vacuum—you need to be in harmony with your community, supporting and encouraging others’ visions.” Geiger also highlights the idea of resonance. “Resonance is not just important in singing—it is also important to acknowledge as human beings. We are all created by God as equal, but also as unique individuals. It is essential to empathize and resonate with one another to find unity in what we do.”

One of Geiger’s vocal students, Coen Sosa ’23, expressed his gratitude for Geiger as a role model of leadership and musicianship in his life.

“When I came to APU, Professor Geiger took me under his wing and taught me how to thrive as a musician. He’s inspired my passion in learning different types of music and has shown me how to work well with others.”

Over a long and successful career in the Los Angeles music industry, Geiger has maintained an outlook of humility. He attributes his success to his long-standing faith. “I’m thankful for my family instilling an ‘unshakeable faith’ in me from a young age. I pray every day that I would be able to show up to work behaving like Jesus in how I treat others and witnessing to the Gospel when the opportunity presents itself.” Despite the complexities of working in Hollywood, Geiger has pushed himself to share his faith journey with colleagues. He notes the importance of integrating faith in his daily interactions with others.

“It’s easy to go up onto the mountain to talk to God, but the real challenge is to come down and face the world. I’m blessed to be in the mission field at every studio session and gig, knowing that I have lots of chances to share my faith with others.”

For his work as part of the team that created the music and soundtrack for Golden Globe-winning film Dune, Geiger drew upon his previous expertise and research. Looking back earlier to 2015, Geiger started to notice a trend in Hollywood music. “While singing on Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens, John Williams had us do this low, gravelly bass singing for Snoke’s music. Over the next few years, I kept getting calls for sessions, and this dark-textured throat singing became more and more popular.”

As this film scoring trend continued to develop, Geiger took a deep dive into the roots of this technique, researching and studying Tuvan and Tibetan throat singing. “Because I had studied these diverse eastern vocal techniques, when Hans Zimmer called me for Dune, I knew just what he was asking for.” In Dune’s end credits, Geiger was acknowledged as both a featured vocalist and a co-writer with Zimmer on the piece “Sardaukar Chant.” This year, Zimmer received a Golden Globe award for “Best Score Motion Picture” for his work on Dune, as well as an Oscar nomination for "Best Score" from the Motion Picture Academy. Geiger noted his excitement and appreciation to be a part of such a monumental project. “I have had the privilege to work on Grammy and Emmy-nominated projects before, but nothing to this scale.”

Looking forward, Geiger is scheduled to perform in more session recordings for prominent upcoming films.

“After the difficulties of the pandemic, it’s exciting for the phone to start ringing again. I’m ecstatic to be making music once more, and I find immense satisfaction in this collaboration.”

Beyond the studio, Geiger is most appreciative of the many opportunities to teach and coach student musicians at APU. “I am truly blessed to be able to give back to my supportive APU community without worrying about what the future holds. All it comes down to is trusting in God and focusing on helping others grow.”

Peter Cooley is a public relations intern in the Division of Strategic Communications and Engagement. He is a music education and honors humanities major, and performs in multiple ensembles at APU. Outside of work, Peter enjoys reading, hiking, and playing music.