Mike Block is not your typical cello player. He’s a pioneer when it comes to using the cello in any number of musical genres including folk, jazz, bluegrass, blues, Appalachian, old-time and, of course classical. He plays second cello to Yo-Yo Ma and has played with Bobby McFerrin, Lenny Kravitz, Shakira, Alison Kraus and many others. Eclectic? You bet! Unlike most traditional cello players, Mike wears his instrument and moves freely across the stage as he plays. He’s incredibly engaging and fun to watch!
You can find out more about Mike and his music at his website.
Here’s Mike playing his original composition, “The Right Guy.”
Here’s a video Mike playing a little Bach.
Mike Block is opening the show for the Hanneke Cassel Band at the me&thee coffeehouse in Marblehead, MA on Friday, May 16. He is part of the band too!
It’s not everyone who can say that Yo-Yo Ma has hailed them as the “ideal musician of the 21st century.” That’s a pretty amazing press quote. What makes you more suited to the 21st century than any other century in which music was played?
I think that some of the values that Yo-Yo and I share are a commitment to engaging with the whole world of music – becoming a “global citizen of music,” if you will. We are both inspired by what happens when strangers meet, and he has been a big inspiration and mentor for me in my own artistic journey.
What did you study at Julliard? What life lessons did you take away from your time there?
I studied classical cello and was focusing on a lot of contemporary music with my teachers. In that environment, I was learning how to really find meaning in every note.
You’ve been a part of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. What was that experience like?
I’ve been touring with the Silk Road Ensemble for 13 years, and it continues to be one of the most exciting collaborative projects I am a part of.
Your musical repertoire includes songs from a great variety of genres. Is there any one that makes you feel the most “at home” while you’re playing? Like your comfort food of music?
My “comfort music” is actually to play my own songs – nothing feels the same as playing something totally personal.
You’re not just a musician and an educator but you’re an inventor! Tell us all about the Block Strap.
I designed the world’s first “cello strap” in order to stand and move while I play. It is a liberating experience for a cello player, and I really enjoy the freedom it gives me.
An interview with you would not be complete if I didn’t mention your Bach in the Bathroom website. It’s long been known that many bathrooms have lovely acoustics. Have you done a scientific study about what it is that makes this so? What’s been your favorite bathroom so far? And what would it take to have a video shot at the me&thee? 😉
Bathrooms sound great to play music in because of all the hard surfaces – the sound waves get bounced around and back and forth so many times that you get a natural reverb, even in a small room. I’m not embarrassed to admit that whenever I’m in a new bathroom, I think about if it would look / sound good to record a movement of Bach in 😉
Photo of Mike Block by Maria Camillo