Michael Mizrahi resisted, but then he saw the signs.
Photo courtesy of Michael Mizrahi.
Sitting in a cafe a block away from Carnegie Hall, where he’s about to make his debut at the age of 27, Michael Mizrahi is at once amazed at his good fortune and sanguine about all that remains to be done. “Carnegie Hall is the mythical place that everyone tries to get to,” he acknowledges. “It’s a huge stepping stone. But it’s not like I’ve arrived.”
For Mizrahi (Music, Religious Studies ’00), playing at the most hallowed hall in the musical imagination was an end he wasn’t entirely convinced he was headed for until fairly recently. Though he started playing the piano at the age of 4 — his mother was his first teacher — and showed obvious musical talent even earlier, Mizrahi “almost stubbornly did not want to do it as a career.” Instead, he majored in physics for most of his time at U.Va., only switching to a double major in music and religion his fourth year.
During a year off after college, he got serious. “My plan was to try to figure out music and if that’s what I wanted to do. I actually did very little music, ironically, but applied to all these master’s programs in piano.”When he was accepted at all of them, including Yale, where he’s now in his fourth year of a doctoral program in piano performance, he says, “I was actually shocked. That was sort of a sign to me.”
Now living in New York for the portion of his degree “where you go out and prove yourself and sort of report back to them,” he’s drinking in all the city has to offer a talented young musician and marvels at the sheer range of what he can both participate in and hear on any given night. He’s also a founding member of two musical groups, the NOW Ensemble, dedicated to new music by young composers, including its own members, and Trio Yashir, which plays Jewish and Jewish-themed music.
As for the big composers, Mizrahi has always been a Mozart man, and his moment at Carnegie Hall is extra special because of it. He’ll be performing Mozart’s Concerto No. 23 in A Major. “My mom had a record of it that she would always play and it’s one of my earliest musical memories. I’ve loved it my whole life but never performed it. It’s this balance to my life thus far.”
Online extras: Click on the links below to hear mp3s of Michael Mizrahi.