Shoshana Michel

Composer and pianist

Author

About

When Shoshana was seven years old, a door-to-door salesman for a local music studio knocked on her front door. Her parents signed her up for music lessons, starting her first on the accordion then adding piano lessons soon after. Classically trained, Shoshana discovered ragtime while in high school when the movie “The Sting” came out and was instantly hooked. She started her professional career at the age of 17 playing honky-tonk/ragtime piano at Shakeys’ Pizza Parlors and the following year was hired by Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California as a ragtime pianist in their brand-new Roaring 20’s section.

Throughout the years, Shoshana has played different genres of music at different venues. She has played ragtime at The Old Town Mall in Torrance California, accompanied the melodramas at The Bird Cage Theatre in Knott’s Berry Farm, served as piano accompanist for many musical productions and played contemporary piano solo at The Galleria at South Bay in Redondo Beach, California.

Shoshana fell in love with New Age solo piano music over 25 years ago, listening to and playing music by pianists David Lanz, Suzanne Ciani, Jim Chappell and others. She was so inspired by their music that she wrote her first piano solo, “Heather, Roses and Moonlight”, for a piano student who shared her love of New Age solo piano. Very soon after, however, feeling that she couldn’t compose, she stopped writing music entirely. When Shoshana discovered Chabad nigunim, songs of Jewish Eastern European origin, she started arranging and playing these beautiful melodies. The positive responses of listeners, moved by her soulful renditions of the nigunim, encouraged her to record and produce her debut album of piano solos, Soul Whispers in 2015. Music from Soul Whispers can be heard worldwide on internet radio stations. Jewish Education Media has used tracks from Soul Whispers in several of their documentaries and it was nominated for 2015 SoloPiano.com Album of the Year.

Although tracks from Soul Whispers were being played on several online solo piano radio stations, she felt the need to prove herself as a composer, not just as an arranger or pianist, to the solo piano community. Determined to compose, she sat down at the piano and after a few tries, the music began to flow. The blocks that had been preventing her from composing for twenty-four years were starting to dissolve. It was as if the flood gates opened and now she couldn’t write down the music fast enough. The result of this ‘flood of music’ was her second album, Dancing on the Wind. Dancing on the Wind was released to an enthusiastic and positive audience and was nominated for Whisperings Album of the Year, One World Music Radio’s Solo Piano Album of the year and SoloPiano.com Album of the Year and won a Global Peace Song Award.

Inspired by the overwhelming response to Dancing on the Wind, Shoshana continued to compose and within a few months, had composed the music for her next album, Prelude to a Dream, which was nominated for Album of the Year by Enlightened Piano Radio, the International Music and Entertainment Association and won Best Solo Piano of the Year by One World Music Radio. Her fourth solo piano album is in the works and will be released in January of 2019.

Shoshana’s music can be heard on Pandora, Sirus XM radio, Whisperings Solo Piano Radio, SoloPiano.com, Spotify, Calm Radio, Sleep Radio, The River of Calm, Accuradio, and many other streaming stations worldwide. Her music can also be heard up in the sky on several airline’s in-flight programming.

Shoshana’s playing has been described as “graceful and flowing” and “refined and elegant”. Her music stirs the heart and touches the soul. The music she writes is inspired by life experiences, people and emotions.

Shoshana is passionate about sharing her music with others and she strives to compose and perform as often as she can. She resides with her human and avian family in Brooklyn, New York.

Sheets

Interview

What does music mean to you personally?

Music is who I am. It is how I can communicate with my inner self and how I express myself. It’s also how I can communicate how I feel and what I’m about to others. Music is the essence of me. It brings color into my world as well as others. Whether I’m playing music to relax, or listening to music while I’m doing something, or composing music, it plays a very important role and is an integral part of my life. I couldn’t imagine my world without music

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

No. I definitely don’t agree that music is all about fantasy. I think that music is very much based in reality. And because of this, it can be very grounding and healing. I do believe, though, that music touches people differently, and for some it can be about fantasy, a way to escape or to dream. Music has different facets to it and resonates differently with each person, and that’s the beauty of it.

If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?

I’ve been a professional musician since I was a teenager so it’s hard to imagine myself anything but. There was a time, however, that I had considered becoming an occupational therapist, as I had wanted to help people to heal, but I didn’t pursue it. I did end up becoming an energy medicine practitioner, however, so the part of me that wants to help people to heal is still doing that through energy and as a musician I can help people to heal through my music.

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about the future?

No, I’m not worried about the future regarding classical music. I think that younger people are discovering, learning about and appreciating classical music. It’s a new generation. Classical music is so much more accessible now with music streaming, music videos, movies, games and social media. I have a twenty year old son that is discovering classical music now completely on his own. When I was in school, music appreciation was a required course, as was art appreciation. I don’t know if schools have music or art appreciation in their curriculums any more, but again, because classical music is used in games, videos, etc., the younger generations can still be exposed to it. I highly doubt that classical music will die out. In fact, there are classically as well as non-classically trained musicians that are creating their own new genres of classical music. I believe that this will heighten an interest in standard classical music instead of replacing it.

What do you envision the role of music to be in the 21st century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

I feel that there is more than one role that music will play in the 21st century. A big role of music would be to help bring peace, balances and healing to the world. There are many musicians that are composing and performing with this in mind. Their focus is to heal the world with music. Another role of music, that I’ve found, is to serve as “background“ music, or music to enhance something to be done. I’ve seen on streaming platforms many, many playlists that are dedicated to music to study, work, sleep and focus by. This brings music into a person’s everyday activities. There are playlists of music dedicated to babies and even for pets. Also, there are playlists dedicated to moods; happy, sad, and every emotion inbetween which establishes music in the role of connecting to a person’s emotions and feelings. So actually, although the roles of music may have transformed a bit because of technology, the basic principles are the same as years ago.

Do you think that the musician today needs to be more creative? What is the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

I think in general, a musician always needs to be creative. With music developing in the digital age, I believe that it is very important for musicians to try different things and be creative in ways that they haven’t tried before. I think that many musicians are afraid of stepping out of their comfort zone, which may inhibit or restrict their creativity. Putting your music out in the world can make one feel vulnerable, trying something new or different can make one feel doubly so. It’s essential, though, as it prevents one from becoming stale and can introduce your music to a wider audience. And it prevents one from sounding like someone else. Each musician is unique and it’s important to acknowledge and accept their own uniqueness.

For me, the role of creativity in the musical process is to get me to listen and expose myself to different composers, different music and different moods. It enables me to think outside of the box and stretch my creative abilities keep my music fresh and allows me to grow. Also, setting the stage or mood for the creative process to happen is very important. I’ve learned to embrace my creative side when it appears and to be patient when it doesn’t. And I’ve learned to accept and respect myself for the unique person and talent that I am and not to compare myself to others.

Do you think we as musicians can do something to attract the younger generation to music concerts? How would you do this?

Yes, I think that we, as musicians, can play an active role in attracting the younger generation to attend music concerts. There is nothing more stimulating than hearing a live concert and seeing artists perform in person. There are many institutions that offer free concerts, whether it be in a park or in a museum. Now with services like YouTube Live, Faceback Live and online concert series such as ConcertWindow, a person can watch a concert from the comforts of their own living room. One way to attract younger people to a concert would be to play music that they are familiar with. There are many artists that are releasing solo piano cover arrangements of popular songs. This is something that I’m very much interested in doing. By playing a piece in your concert that is familiar to your audience, you establish a connection. One way that I employ now to establish a connection between the audience and myself, no matter what their age is, is to talk about the piece I’m about to play. This way they can understand the music better plus I am connecting with them on a personal level.

Tell us about your creative process. What is your favorite piece (written by you) and how did you start working on it?

Normally, I sit down at my keyboard, usually late at night, and just see what music comes from my head and to my fingers. I usually don’t have anything in mind when I sit down. If something does form, I will either start to notate it in my notation program or I will record it from my keyboard to USB so I can develop it later. A title and/or theme will usually form as I’m developing the piece. Once the piece is pretty much developed, I’ll play it through on my baby grand and see if there are anything that I want to add or change. I will often get a different feel for the piece when I’m playing it on an acoustic piano. “Ethereal“, from my album, Prelude to a Dream, is my favorite of my compositions, so far. It was inspired by a beautiful melody from Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #2. It is one of the very few pieces that I’ve composed that I actually had something in mind when I wrote it.

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

Yes. Listen to the different classical periods of music. See what resonates with you and what doesn’t. There are genres and sub-genres of classical music as well as composers that you may have never discovered before. And give it a second and third try if you don’t like something the first time. You may think that you don’t like a certain period of music until you discover a different composer that you may have missed before. With websites like YouTube, social media and all of the music streaming platforms out there, it is so easy to discover, access and listen to classical music.

Do you think about the audience when composing?

I do think of the audience when composing. I definitely want to be true to myself when I’m composing and compose pieces that I like, but I feel that it’s very important to have your audience in mind as well, since they are the ones listening to and supporting your music. After an album has been released, and it’s been out for a while, I can track which of my pieces have been streamed and downloaded the most. That will give me an idea of what my audience likes and I can use that knowledge when I compose new pieces.

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

I’m currently working on a new solo piano album that should be released after the first of the year. It will be recorded on a beautiful Shigeru Kawai piano as my last two albums have been. In the near future, in addition to continuing recording acoustic solo piano, I’d like to experiment with piano with orchestration as well as with digital piano recordings and see where that can take me. I have heard some amazing virtual sampled instrument sounds that are so realistic sounding that it’s hard to tell that it’s not a real instrument. As much as I love to record solo piano, there’s a part of me that really wants to add instrumentation to my piano compositions, so hopefully I’ll play around with that within the next year or so.