Silk road Ensemble’s pioneering multi-style cellist Mike Block and tabla virtuoso Sandeep Das visited the Music District for to prepare for their Off the Hook Arts performance Dynamics: Mike Block & Sandeep Das in Concert on July 5th, 2018. During their stay they offered one-on-one lessons with two Fort Collins musicians, Brett Rindt (cellist in A Brother’s Fountain) and Jonathan Sadler (percussion in More Than Physics). Brett, who recently adopted the idea of standing upright while playing the cello had the opportunity to try Mike’s master tips and tricks using Mike’s new cello strap created for the standing cellist. At the same time, Sand offered his decades of knowledge to dig deep into technique with Jonathan. Brief but impactful, Mike and Sandeep brought their well-travelled skillset to our doorstep here in Fort Collins.
Mike Block is a pioneering cello player, singer, composer, and educator, hailed by Yo-Yo Ma as the “ideal musician of the 21st-Century.” Passionate about cross-cultural collaboration through music, Mike is committed to inspiring individuals and connecting communities. At home in a wide range of musical styles, through a multi-genre approach to composition, performance and education, he seeks to inspire audiences and empower musicians to find joy in the full world of music.
Mike is member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble (SRE), having joined in 2005 while a student at The Juilliard School. Touring extensively throughout the world with SRE, he has been featured as cello and vocal soloist, contributed arrangements and compositions, and earned a Grammy Award in 2017 for their album, Sing Me Home. Mike also served as Music Director for SRE’s acclaimed opening concert of New York City’s Central Park SummerStage 2011 season “Night at the Caravanserai: Tales of Wonder”.
As an innovator, Mike is among the first wave of cellists to adopt a strap in order to stand and move while playing. Employing his patented design, The Block Strap, Mike was the first standing cellist to perform at Carnegie Hall. The NY Times characterized the performance as, “Breathless … Half dance, half dare.”
As an educator, Mike is passionate about creativity and collaboration. In 2010 he founded the Mike Block String Camp (MBSC) as a way to provide players of all backgrounds the opportunity to learn from a world-class faculty in a variety of styles, supporting the exploration and development of the artistic voice of each student. Mike is also the founding Director of Silkroad’s Global Musician Workshop (GMW), designed to foster a community of globally minded musicians. He teaches online through his Multi-Style Cello School at ArtistWorks.com, with an extensive library of instructional and performance videos, and authored the book Contemporary Cello Etudes, published by Berklee Press.
Acclaimed by the NY Times for his “vital rich-hued solo playing,” Block’s solo performances offer a rich mixture of core classical repertoire with original compositions. He has collaborated in performance and recordings with a variety of diverse musicians, including Will.i.am, Edgar Meyer, Stevie Wonder, The New York Philharmonic, Bon Iver, Zakir Hussain, Rachel Barton Pine, Allison Krauss, Mark O’Connor, Bobby McFerrin, Darol Anger, and Julian Lage. Mike is an active recording artist of original material, folk music and cross-cultural collaborations. He has an ongoing project to record all of the Bach cello suites in acoustically glorious bathrooms of famous concert halls, BachInTheBathroom.com.
During his time living in New York City, Mike regularly subbed on Broadway as on-stage cellist for the Pulitzer Prize winning musical, Next to Normal, and he also worked as Music Consultant on the 2012 film, A Late Quartet. Mike was the subject of a 2011 feature article in the Wall Street Journal for his Artistic Directorship of the GALA BROOKLYN Music Festival, featuring cross-cultural collaborations among locally-based musicians. Mike’s television and radio credits include Late Night with Conan O’Brian, Regis and Kelly, NBC’s 30 Rock, NPR’s St. Paul Sunday Morning, WNYC’s Soundcheck, APM’s Performance Today, WNBC 4’s Chuck Scarborough Show, VH1, The Disney Channel, and the CBS Early Show.
Mike attended the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied cello with Richard Aaron, and received the Jim Hall Prize for Undergraduate Achievement. He earned a Master’s Degree from the Juilliard School, studying with Darrett Adkins and Joel Krosnick. Mike plays on a modern cello made in 2014 by Fabienne Gauchet, a Yamaha electric cello, D’Addario strings, a David Gage Realist pickup, and the patented cello strap of his own design, The Block Strap. In 2012, he was appointed Associate Professor at the Berklee College of Music. Mike lives in Boston with his wife, fiddler Hanneke Cassel.
Sandeep Das is one of the leading Tabla virtuosos in the world today. Having established himself as India’s top Tabla maestro, he has also built a prolific international reputation. He is one of the unique Indian classical musicians who has collaborated and performed with and composed for major symphony orchestras, string quartets, and jazz musicians with regularly featured concerts at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Hollywood Bowl, Royal Albert Hall and the Concertgebouw, to name a few. He has performed at prestigious events such as 150 years celebration of the UNO at the General Assembly Hall in NYC, Opening ceremony of the Special Olympics in Shanghai, Opening ceremony of the 1st Asia Expo in Kunming, China, World Economic Forum and for visiting dignitaries like the Queen of England, Queen of Thailand, the Pope and various other visiting country heads. His collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble (SRE) for “Sing Me Home” won the 2017 Grammy Award for the Best World Music album. He has had two previous Grammy nominations in 2005 and 2009.
Das has composed several pieces combining both percussion and melody. His latest composition “ King Ashoka” recently premiered at UC Santa Barbara by Yo-Yo Ma and The SRE and also toured in Asia. “Tarang” was chosen as the theme music for “Blind Sight,” a documentary about the first Everest climb by six blind climbers. “Mohini” became theme music for the Japanese TV channel NHK’s 10-episode documentary on the Silk Road. “Srishti” a percussive rich composition has been performed worldwide.
Das is the founder of HUM (Harmony and Universality through Music). HUM’s mission is two-fold: to promote global understanding through performance and education and provide learning opportunities and scholarships for specially-abled children with potential in any genre of art to empower them to lead self reliant lives. Since its inception, HUM has grown in size and now supports six specially-abled children through a National Scholarship, the first of its kind in India.
Das had intensively trained for 12 years, starting at the age of 7 in the centuries-old Indian tradition of Guru-Shishya Parampara of living with his Guru—Pandit Kishan Maharaj— and learning and practicing music as a way of life, more than just an art form. His training and life experiences provide a unique, educational opportunity for students and ensembles to learn from. He has been on faculty for the last five years at the Harvard Education School Summer Institute and has been a guest artist at various universities like Dartmouth, Brandeis, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Clara, College of the Holy Cross, Juilliard school of Music, Berklee School of Music, and UC British Columbia.
A Gold Medalist in English Literature from Banaras Hindu University in India and a product of the prestigious St.Xaviers High School ,Patna, he is an artist, performer, composer, and cultural and educational entrepreneur. He currently resides in Boston, USA.