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Editor's note: This column was published hours before Matt Michaels died at home on Wednesday evening.
Here's a Matt Michaels story. One day, years ago, he was lecturing at Wayne State University, a cigarette in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other. As he spoke about jazz theory, the ashes of his cigarette grew perilously long, and the students edged forward, wondering when they would drop. When Matt leaned over an upright piano -- look out! -- the ashes fell through the open top. He didn't seem to notice.
A few minutes later, smoke started wafting from inside the piano.
Matt sauntered over, dumped his coffee on the flame, doused it and kept on teaching.
Never missed a beat.