Mike Block

Associate Professor
Affiliated Departments
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Hailed by Yo-Yo Ma as the "ideal musician of the 21st century," Mike Block is a pioneering multi-style cellist, composer, and educator. While still studying at the Juilliard School, Block joined Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, and shortly thereafter also joined Mark O’Connor’s Appalachia Waltz Trio. After becoming one of the first wave of cellists to adopt a strap in order to stand and move while playing, Mike was the first standing cellist to perform at Carnegie Hall, using a cello strap of his own design, called the Block Strap, a performance which the New York Times called "...breathless...half dance, half dare." He runs a summer string workshop in Florida and is also the founding director of the Global Musician Workshop, bringing together faculty and participants from diverse musical traditions around the world. Block is an active recording artist of original material, folk music, cross-cultural collaborations, and he has an ongoing project to record all of the Bach cello suites in "acoustically glorious" bathrooms of famous concert halls.

Career Highlights
  • Former member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, Mark O’Connor’s Appalachia Waltz Trio, Darol Anger’s Republic of Strings and the Knights orchestra
  • Recordings include Brick by Brick (solo), Naive Melody (The Triborough Trio), Words R Words (Mike Block Band), and After the Factory Closes (Mike Block Band)
  • Founded the Mike Block String Camp in Vero Beach, Florida, with additional locations in Michigan, Maine, and New York
  • Guest artist/teacher at Southern Methodist University
  • Lead teaching artist for Silk Road Connect, a program in the NYC and Boston public schools
  • Served as music director for Yo-Yo Ma, Bobby McFerrin, Marcus Printup, Emalie Savoy, Lil’ Buck, Damian Woetzel, Bill Irwin, the Silk Road Ensemble, and the Knights
  • Performed with will.i.am, Allison Krauss, Edgar Meyer, Mike Marshall, Zakir Hussain, the National, Bon Iver, My Brightest Diamond, Tim O’Brien, Rachel Barton-Pine, Marcel Khaliffe, Goran Bregovic, Simone Dinnerstein, Dawn Upshaw, and Anthony McGill
  • Recorded with Lenny Kravitz, Shakira, Joe Zawinul, and Alasdair Fraser
  • Appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brian, Regis and Kelly, 30 Rock, NPR’s St. Paul Sunday Morning, WNYC’s Soundcheck, APM's Performance Today, among others 
  • Regularly subbed as on-stage cellist in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical Next to Normal
  • Music consultant for the film A Late Quartet
  • Alumnus, Juilliard School
In Their Own Words

"Professionally I try and do everything. I really enjoy playing music from different cultures, and I particularly like combining different styles of music in new ways. As a cellist I’m not really hampered by expectations of a single tradition, other than classical music, maybe. It’s a particularly good instrument to explore."

"I think that any teacher can provide good content to the students, but if a student doesn’t walk away from a lesson motivated to practice and motivated to learn more, than the content is of little use. So I definitely hope that my students are excited and inspired to keep working by themselves after my time with them is done."

"I was trying to explain to some of my classical friends what was special about Berklee, and I definitely felt that I was less of a physical trainer and more of a spirit guide. Drawing on personal, professional experiences is just as important as drawing on my ability to play the instrument."

"One of the things that I’m interested in exploring with my students is the concept and implementation of group practice sessions. Like improvising chord changes, but instead of a backing track, improvising with someone else who is working on bass lines, and combining all the different components of music so that people can practice together and make practicing itself a social experience. There’s a lot of technical practice that you need to learn how to do in order to learn to play an instrument, and when you’re playing, a lot of these styles, you need to learn how to improvise over chord progressions.  There’s a certain abstraction that happens, where you’re not playing any specific piece of music, but you’re practicing something very focused. The musician, student or professional, generally exists by yourself in a room working on something, and I think there are ways to actually get more out of practice sessions in certain contexts if you have somebody to practice with."