Like many eighteenth-century composers, Michl came from a family of musicians. His father, Johann Anton Leonhard Michl (1716–1781), was choirmaster and organist in Neumarkt, and other members of his extended family included the composers Johann Joseph Ildefons Michl and his brother Ferdinand and Ferdinand’s son, the cellist and singer, Melchior Virgil Michl.

Joseph was educated at the electoral Gymnasium and Lyceum in Munich and by the age of twenty he was already working professionally as a double-bassist at the Jesuit church of St Michael in Munich.

He undertook further studies in Freising with Placidus von Camerloher, the court Kapellmeister, whose brother elder brother, Johann Anton Camerloher, was court composer in Munich.

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