March 16, 2024

In Memoriam:
Faculty member Solomon Mikowsky (1936–2024)

March 16, 2024

Dear MSM Community,

We write today to share the profoundly sad news that beloved piano faculty member Solomon Mikowsky – who possessed a singular pedagogical genius which he brought to his work at Manhattan School of Music for more than half a century – passed away on Friday, March 15.

Dr. Mikowsky joined the MSM Precollege faculty in 1969 and the College faculty in 1974. With 55 years of service to our institution, Solomon taught for more than half of MSM’s 105-year history. Included in Benjamin Saver’s The Most Wanted Piano Teachers in the USA and cited by Clavier as “one of the world’s most sought-after artist teachers,” Solomon Mikowsky stands as one of this country’s giants of music pedagogy.

Solomon approached his inextinguishable passion for teaching with a dry wit and immense skill as both musician and teacher.  Over five-plus decades, he taught into being a living musical legacy – an expansive community of former students who are performing and teaching at many of the world’s greatest performance halls and institutions of higher education (including 11 who have taught at MSM’s College and Precollege). France’s Sur Exprès referred in an article to Solomon’s “magical ability to develop his piano students into artists,” a contention evidenced by this partial list of those former students enjoying international careers, including Alexandra Beliakovich, Jenny Q Chai, Jovianney Emmanuel Cruz, Gustavo Díaz-Jerez, Simone Dinnerstein, Wael Farouk (MSM faculty), Po-Wei Ger, Kirill Gerstein, Kookhee Hong, Adam Kent (MSM Precollege faculty), Kho Woon Kim, Kyu Yeon Kim, Youngho Kim, Sofya Melikyan, José Ramón Mendez, Misha Namirovsky, Edward Neeman, Yuan Sheng, Aaron Shorr, Tatiana Tessman, Chun Wang, Xiayin Wang, Yungwook Yoo, Jie Yuan, and current Co-Heads of MSM’s Piano department Alexandre Moutouzkine and Inesa Sinkevych.  You can read more about the accomplishments of Solomon’s former students in the bio posted below.

Moreover, we see Solomon’s pedagogical legacy and philanthropic devotion to the institution live on in highly visible fashion on the MSM campus.  A longtime MSM donor and member of the Galaxy Society, Solomon made two generous gifts which led to the creation of the Solomon Mikowsky Recital Hall, inaugurated in 2010 and expanded in 2018, in conjunction with the School’s Centennial.   Many of those same former students mentioned above returned to perform at both the hall’s inauguration and its expansion and reopening eight years later.

A Steinway Artist, Solomon was a recipient of the MSM President’s Medal for Distinguished Service and was celebrated during the pandemic with the MSM website presentation of 7 sets of Mozart’s Twinkle Variations featuring Solomon and 47 of his students (reviewed by New York Concert Review here) and an 85th-birthday celebration featuring him and 75 of his students performing in A Birthday Celebration! (reviewed here).

Born in Cuba to Polish parents, Solomon received his early training with César Pérez Sentenat, and then, awarded scholarships by the Cuban government and The Juilliard School, he continued his studies in New York City with Sascha Gorodnitzki, receiving BM and MM degrees from Juilliard and completing his studies with a doctorate from Teachers College of Columbia University. In addition to his foundational service on the MSM faculty, Solomon’s incredible life journey also saw him teaching and giving master classes at leading conservatories as well as judging international competitions around the world.

There are too many memories for one email, but here are just a few personal remembrances:

President Gandre

I met Solomon in 1985 when I first started working at MSM.  I was immediately struck by his extraordinary intellect and passion for art and literature.  He taught his students with as much or more passion and dedication than I have ever seen in a professor anywhere.  He was dedicated to the success of our institution which is demonstrated by the gifts he gave, but also through his endless notes and emails to me and others about how to promote the School widely.  He was not always an easy person – which he freely admitted – but he was someone I always respected because of his high levels of expectation, mostly of himself but also all of us around him.  When I left MSM in 2000 and became dean of Chicago College of Performing Arts/Roosevelt University, I hired Solomon to teach a few students (two of these students, Inesa Sinkevych and Wael Farouk, are now on our faculty), so I had the great pleasure of continuing to see him regularly during my time away from MSM.  

I cannot fully express what a loss I believe his death is to our Community.  We will no longer be able to partake of his intensity, his passion, his wit, his pedagogical brilliance, his fervor and commitment to the art form, and also his wry humor.  But, even though this is no longer possible, we are all the better for the impact he made on so many of us over the years, primarily his beloved students.

Provost Griggs

My earliest memories of Solomon began with his request to meet with me. In our first meeting, Solomon pulled out his notorious index cards to share with me ideas he had for the School. Unsurprising to me now, Solomon masterfully packed a wealth of ideas into those tiny cards, and his ideas, always steeped in reality, were also nearly limitless. While my time with Solomon was relatively short compared to so many who were blessed to know him for decades, or even more than half a century, I will treasure the musical and pedagogical insights he shared with me. Deeply committed to his students, we would discuss his approach to assigning repertoire with the singular goal that the student master their own artistic voice, nurturing and inspiring their intellectual and artistic curiosity, while ensuring they mastered the necessary technical foundation to fully express their musical ideas. Though Solomon would surely brush away these compliments, rather shy about receiving recognition as he always wanted the attention to be on the topic – his students and MSM, I am grateful for all he shared with us.

Alexandre Moutouzkine (Co-Head, Piano)

With tremendous sadness, we learned about the passing of Solomon Mikowsky at the turn of his 88th birth year. Almost 23 years ago, I met Solomon, and he invited me to New York to audition at MSM. As a student in Germany, a trip to the US was beyond my means; in response, he just sent me a plane ticket and a $100 bill for a taxi from the airport. Ever since, Solomon has been an incredible mentor to me. A man of extraordinary passion, his heart was filled with profound affection for music, his students, and MSM. Solomon dedicated every day of his life to his students. With unmatched wisdom and generosity, his devotion manifested in generations of phenomenal artists and significantly contributed to the artistic legacy of MSM. I am eternally grateful for having had a chance to meet and learn from Solomon. 

Inesa Sinkevych (Co-Head, Piano)

To many, Solomon was like a father figure, deeply caring about our professional development, growth, and success, as well as our personal lives.  He inspired curiosity and ardently insisted on broadening our scope not only from a musical perspective, but as artists and citizens of the world.  He was impossibly persistent, always taking charge, taking risks, determined, sometimes simply blunt, but always incredibly passionate about music and our success.  His zest for life was inexhaustible.

For 11 years, Solomon traveled to teach students in Chicago, me being the first student.  A young Ukrainian-Israeli student, I could only dream of studying in America with such an incredible teacher.  His strong belief in me made this dream a reality.  Solomon was a pivotal figure to me – my most important teacher and beloved mentor.  He insisted and encouraged us, even when we had deep doubts.  “Try it, you never know!” was his slogan. 

I am currently in Barcelona judging the 69th Maria Canals International Piano Competition, the competition for which he himself was a frequent judge, and his words echo in my head.  As we grieve Solomon’s passing, I have no doubts his torch of curiosity, humor, passion for life and tenacity, and his legacy of teaching, will be carried on by numerous students around the world for generations to come.

A full recounting of Solomon’s incredible musical and pedagogical career – all in service to his students and the instrument he loved – can be found in his bio below. And for further listening, we recommend Solomon’s performance of Sonata No.7 in D Major I. Adagio by Baldassare Galuppi and Italian Concerto, BWV 971 II. Andante by Johann Sebastian Bach, found at this link. Also, please enjoy hearing Solomon in conversation with MSM alumnus and Alumni Council Chair Justin Bischof (BM ’90, MM ’92, DMA ’98) in this episode of Justin’s MSM Conversations Over 80.

To experience an autumnal feeling of loss at the profoundly sad news of his passing just as spring is about to bloom is the kind of irony that Solomon, whose rueful, mischievous sense of humor was one of his most endearing traits, would appreciate. So as we prepare to welcome in the joyous music of spring, let’s all commit to celebrating Solomon, expressing collective gratitude for the role he played at MSM for more than half its existence and for those elemental qualities of artistry and inspiration that he brought forward in so many of our students over the years.

We will write again to let you know any relevant details regarding public visitation or memorial services as we receive word, as well as MSM’s plans to pay tribute to this “giant of music pedagogy.” Until then, we are thinking of all those who were particularly close to Solomon – especially family, close friends, and former students – and we know you join us in sending them comfort.



Solomon in the newly expanded and reopened Solomon Mikowsky Recital Hall, flanked by portraits of former students (2018)

Solomon Mikowsky Recital Hall: awaiting the reopening concert following expansion (2018)

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