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Renowned Cellist, Composer and Educator Mike Block to Begin Meadows Residency

Silk Road performer will fill in the gaps between Western music and improvisation and perform as guest artist with the Meadows World Music Ensemble

By Katrina Leshan | B.M. Classical Guitar Performance ‘13

Mike Block Band in NYC
Photo by Richard Frank

Cellist Mike Block, hailed by Yo-Yo Ma as the “ideal musician of the 21st century,” will visit Meadows three times this spring as part of a mini-residency to teach improvisation master classes. The classes are centered on the idea of showing students how to have a more personal relationship with their instruments through the art of improvisation, something that Block has done for years.

Block studied at The Juilliard School and since then has toured the world, performing various genres of music ranging from classical music with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, to his original music with both the Triborough Trio and the Mike Block Band, which includes elements of rock, jazz, classical and folk music. Block also founded the Mike Block String Camp in Vero Beach, Fla., and is the Lead Teaching Artist for Silk Road Connect, a program that sponsors presentations from Block and other international artists at public schools in New York City and Boston.

In addition, Block has performed with Allison Krauss, Edgar Meyer and Zakir Hussain; recorded with Lenny Kravitz and Joe Zawinul, among many others; and played on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, NPR’s St. Paul Sunday Morning, Regis and Kelly, VH1 and the CBS Early Show.

“Mike Block is an international phenomenon who has opened classical music to non-Western influences,” says Dr. Sam Holland, director of the Meadows Division of Music.

Though this will not be Block’s first visit to Meadows, it will be the first time he teaches throughout the semester. “I’ve enjoyed getting to see the students year after year,” says Block. “[SMU Professor of Cello] Andres Diaz, Dr. Holland and I agreed that the experience would be so much more meaningful if I could come back multiple times in one semester, so that each visit could build on the previous one.”

Classes are open to all music students and will involve the development of a stronger, more personal relationship between students and their instruments through an understanding of improvisation. “Improvisation can lead to greater fulfillment, as well as a deeper well from which to draw when interpreting music someone else has written,” Block says.

Block is especially excited to be working at Meadows, because he senses a deep connection between faculty members and their real-world experience as it pertains to teaching. “At SMU, teachers are active in the profession, and can impart knowledge gained from very current experience. I’m glad to be added to that mix; what I do is ‘current’ enough that it hasn’t made it into the college curriculum yet. It is so important to any classical musician about to embark on a career to have the skills necessary to be flexible in a variety of situations.”

Block hopes that Meadows students can learn just as much about communicating as about how to play music during his classes. “My personal fulfillment as a musician is greater because I can communicate with more types of musicians and audiences,” he says.

One of Block’s fundamental beliefs is that there is no secret to playing different styles of music; the key is to take the same dedication that students have in their classical studies and apply it to new genres.

“Learn how to play the music you love to listen to!” Block says. “We spend so much time learning what we are supposed to for this audition, or that recital, that we forget to play music purely for the joy of it.”

Master classes are open only to Meadows music students, and will take place February 20-22, March 6-8 and April 26-27. Block’s first public performance will be at 8 p.m. on April 26, when he will be a guest artist with the Meadows World Music Ensemble at their annual spring concert in Caruth Auditorium. For more information, call the Division of Music at 214-768-1951.

For more on Mike Block, visit:

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