Mike Block is a pioneering cello player, singer, composer, and educator, passionate about cross-cultural collaboration through music, and committed to inspiring individuals and connecting communities. Acclaimed by the New York Times for his "vital rich-hued solo playing”, and “a true artist... a sight to behold” (Salt Lake City Desert News), Mike Block “is one of the bravest, most intriguing musicians on the American fusion scene.” (Gramophone). Mike’s solo show offers a rich mixture of classical repertoire, folk music, original compositions, and songs. Collaborative projects include a duo with Indian tabla player Sandeep Das, a 6-piece American/African fusion band co-led with Malian balafon player Balla Kouyate, and the Mike Block Trio, featuring Joe K. Walsh (mandolin) and Zachariah Hickman (bass). Since 2005, Mike has been a member of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble, with which he has been featured as a cello and vocal soloist, contributed arrangements and compositions, and earned a Grammy Award in 2017 for their album Sing Me Home. Mike has been invited to perform as a concerto soloist with the Illinois Symphony, The Knights, China National Philharmonic (Beijing), Shanghai Symphony and Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, and has collaborated in performances and/or recordings with Stevie Wonder, The Eagles, Bon Iver, Will.i.am, The National, The New York Philharmonic, Bobby McFerrin, Allison Krauss, Rhiannon Giddens, Mark O'Connor, Rachel Barton Pine, Edgar Meyer, Julian Lage, and many others.
Mike is an active recording artist of original material, folk music, and cross-cultural collaborations, releasing almost 20 albums under his name that regularly chart near the top of multiple Billboard categories, such as Classical, World, Bluegrass, and Classical Crossover. Recent albums include Machines that Fly, a solo album of original songs, as well as Planispheres featuring a series of free improvisations each recorded LIVE for an audience of one, described as “incredibly elastic and daring, full of sonorous lines and sudden right angles” (The Whole Note). The debut album from his duo project with Sandeep Das, Where the Soul Never Dies, was acclaimed by Jazziz for its “Raw, organic, eclectic and soulful dialogue”. His 2020 full-band album of original songs, The Edge of Atmosphere, was lauded by American Songwriter magazine as having “fantastic pop sensibilities...a truly exciting blend of world-class classical musicianship.” Mike’s previous album, Guzo, was crowned a “Top of the World“ album pick by Songlines Magazine UK, and features eight original compositions, each inspired by different cultures. Step into the Void is his solo album of the complete Bach cello suites, which has “a refreshing freedom and a sense of exploration” (The Whole Note), and BBC Music Magazine remarked it had “a joyous glister that I found irresistible ... here is an original talent”. Mike also has an ongoing video project to record all of the Bach cello suites in acoustically glorious bathrooms of famous concert halls, via BachInTheBathroom.com, and takes his solo show on an annual Frank Lloyd Wright House Concert Tour.
Mike has been a contributing producer for Facebook’s Sound Collection since 2017, for which he has composed, arranged, recorded and produced around 500 recordings, ranging from Western Classical to contemporary pop, and traditional music from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. In frequent demand as an arranger, Mike has contributed arrangements for artists such as Miley Cyrus, Elton John, Bobby McFerrin, Metallica, Morrissey, Raffi, Rhiannon Giddens, The Knights, Parker Quartet, Angélique Kidjo, Mashrou’ Leila, and many of the world’s finest dancers as Music Director of the Vail Dance Festival, where he worked closely with Damian Woetzel. Emerging as Yo-Yo Ma’s “go-to” arranger, Mr. Ma has performed and/or recorded dozens of Mike’s arrangements on 5 continents. Mr. Ma’s 2021 album, “Notes for the Future”, features cello parts Mike composed on 4 out of 9 tracks, including both singles.
As an educator, Mike is passionate about developing creativity and collaboration among performers of all ages. In 2010, he founded the Mike Block String Camp as a way to provide players of different 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, designed to foster a community of globally-minded musicians through immersive performance experiences in multi-cultural settings. He also teaches around 600 cello students online through his Multi-Style Cello School at ArtistWorks.com and authored the book Contemporary Cello Etudes, published by Berklee Press. From 2012-2022, Mike served as Associate Professor at the Berklee College of Music, and is currently on faculty of New England Conservatory, where he joined the Contemporary Improvisation department in 2018.
As an innovator, Mike is among the first wave of cellists to adopt a strap to stand and move while performing. Using his patented design, The Block Strap. Mike was the first standing cellist to perform at Carnegie Hall, which The New York Times characterized as "breathless ... half dance, half dare." In 2020, Mike founded Play For The Vote (PFTV), which organizes musical performances at polling locations across the country on Election Day, with the goal of increasing voter turnout by providing a more positive voting experience. PFTV 2020 had 1,500 musicians participate across 48 states (and D.C.), gaining national press coverage with features from the Associated Press, Scripps TV, the Boston Globe, the New York Times, NPR, and more.
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 Block Strap. Mike lives in Boston with his wife, fiddler Hanneke Cassel, and their young daughter.