Mike Block & Balla Kouyate
Balla Kouyate, a balafon player from Mali, and cellist/singer Mike Block have had a long collaborative relationship over 10 years, bonding over their shared interest in musics from across the world, and their commitment to innovating with their instruments, bringing them into new musical environments. Balla Kouyate, coming out of the Djeli tradition of Mali, was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship from the NEA, and Mike Block is a Grammy Award-winning musician with a Western Classical background. They have teamed up, with the support of Balla’s regular band of West African musicians, to create an exciting fusion of American and African musical styles.
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 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.