Misha Segal – The Spirit Of Music

An Exclusive Interview by Bruce Edwin


He was the most influential Israeli recording artist in his homeland of Israel, but had to expand, which meant leaving and arriving in the entertainment capitol of the world – Los Angeles. The result? One Emmy, a Brit Award, many other awards, an indelible mark on American cinema with his noteworthy scores, and kudos from his peers that- like his hundred plus compositions- would stand the test of time.


"I have always admired Misha Segal as a very talented musician and composer."
- Quincy Jones

Fluent in many musical languages, composer Misha Segal exemplifies a border-free musician. His ability to infuse different cultural influences and music styles into his work is one reason why he has won major awards on three different continents. As a producer and co-writer, Misha Segal's album Don't Say It's Over (Warner Brothers - 1995) features vocalist Randy Crawford, and spent three weeks at #1 on the New Adult Contemporary (NAC) Charts. Prior to that CD, Segal's album, Connected to the Unexpected (JVC - 1996), was played in heavy rotation by top NAC stations at over 200 colleges across the country. Far ahead of its time, reviewers praised it as a "new genre in music." Misha's highly-acclaimed, first CD, Zambooka, (Music Masters - 1993) features legendary artists Chick Corea, Freddy Hubbard and Mark Isham. It hit #1 with the Critic's Choice Awards in JAZZIZ magazine and was endorsed by both Quincy Jones and Bob James.

With over 100 feature film scores to his credit, veteran composer Misha Segal admits, "Failure was not an option." His contributions include The Phantom of the Opera, which received wide critical acclaim for its originality and scope and the Brit Award for Best Soundtrack/Cast Recording, the all time favorite kids' movie, The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, and Un Secreto de Esperanza, Mexican diva Katy Jurado's last movie. Numerous other domestic and international films and even animated features like The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus and The Secret Garden display Misha Segal's unique mark and style.

Misha Segal's compositions illuminate the color spectrum. He shades the notes with influences - the most powerful of whom is his hero Gustav Mahler. He states, "Not so much directly in music, but because of Mahler's depth; eternal struggle with the concept of life / death and nature as expressed through his vast musical language; being at the peak of the romantic era; his honesty; clarity; and never compromising message." Even jazz pianist Tamir Hendelman, mentored by Misha Segal, attests to Misha's "love of sweepingly inspiring figures in music, Bill Evans and Gustav Mahler - and the way their influence colored Misha's music."

From Misha's beautifully lyrical solo piano excursions to sometimes menacing and searing orchestral scores, he is equally at home in the studio, as he is conducting a 90-piece orchestra in Hungary or an 80-piece orchestra in Dublin. After moving to Los Angeles, Misha Segal was signed by the founder of Motown Records, Berry Gordy, to compose and write for their artists; even scoring for the incomparable Berry Gordy's final major film titled "The Last Dragon" - and the love theme song performed by Smokey Robinson.

Prior to relocating to Los Angeles, Misha enjoyed a successful career in New York City, where he initially began working for Columbia Records and RCA. He had the privilege of writing, arranging, orchestrating or producing for high profile artists including Luther Vandross and Nancy Wilson. A vanguard in his native Israel, Misha's jazz, rock, pop, and classical compositions (performed by the Israeli Philharmonic and the Israeli Chamber Ensemble, among others) helped revolutionize the face of contemporary music in his homeland. His claim to fame is searching for new sounds, new horizons and ground breaking ideas. Considered today to be one of the leading cultural influences in Israel, he garnered numerous #1 hits due in part to his interpretation and application of western music influences to the Israeli cultural scene.

Before graduating from the Berkeley College of music in Boston and heading to New York, Misha was well schooled. In London he studied composition at the Guildhall School of music; apprenticed under 20th century master composer Dieter Schönbach in Germany, and initially studied with Israel's foremost composers- Paul Ben-Haim, Noam Sherrif and Isaac Sadai- as well as film and philosophy at Tel Aviv University. Getting his first piano and opportunity to pursue music only happened after his compulsory military service.

If you haven’t heard the name or work of Misha Segal before now, then it is perhaps because you need to listen, learn, and appreciate what he called to me his most applicable genre if he had to label it – cutting edge jazz. In fact, you most likely have heard Misha’s work in one of some hundred of films or T.V. shows, but just not known it.

When one first hears the work of Misha Segal, one recognizes instantly two things; one, he is not an artist of mimicry, he is the source. And secondly, his mastery of the craft of music is so powerful, not for its technical expertise- which is there- but because of his works soul. As he explains, music is for the moment, and further I would add, it is to be experienced, heard, and felt, not merely described. With that said, we still appreciate the words and ideas here in this exclusive interview with this amazing artist, and how he sees the world in relation to his work. I trust that you will be as thoroloughy delighted as I was with Misha Segal’s mind.

An Exclusive Interview with Misha Segal

By The Hollywood Sentinel

The Hollywood Sentinel:
Hello Misha, it’s nice to meet you. You have had a long and impressive career in music and in Hollywood, with continuing great successes. What has been your proudest moment as a musician and composer, and why?

Misha Segal: There have been many moments, my Emmy win, getting the call from Berry Gordy that he wanted to sign me to Motown, being called to write the music for the movie Phantom of the Opera or standing in front of a 120 piece orchestra and conducting my score. (There are) really too many to choose one but a really amazing moment was when Chick Corea played his solo on my first album. Just being in the studio and experiencing one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time improvise a solo on my tune. That was a big one.

The Hollywood Sentinel, Bruce Edwin: That’s great. We hear about the arts and music programs being cut from public schools in the United States. Why do you feel this should not occur-assuming you do- and what can people help do to change this?

Misha Segal: During the 2nd World War, ministers approached Churchill and asked him if it was possible to cut budget from the arts so the money could be used for the war machine. Churchill’s answer to them was; “What do you think we are fighting for?...” The arts elevate man from his material existence; problems, taxes, wars, etc., to a place where he can experience the real important things about life; His spirituality, his dreams, his aesthetic aspirations. Art modifies one’s behavior for the better, it raises the intelligence and shifts man’s priorities to higher values.

I remember going to the Art Institute of Chicago Museum once. On the stairway sat a few kids who looked like they were gang members, (which was) quite scary actually. My thought was “why doesn’t someone get them away from here?” Then I went in and for two hours looked through the impressionist’s art. There was a guide who described the background to some of this magnificent art. I was elated and felt like I “saw God.” When I came out, the kids, oddly enough were still sitting there. My thought now was “Why doesn’t someone invite them inside and show them some beauty and give them something they really need – aesthetics, participation in something bigger than life?” Well, my next thought was – wow, my viewpoint totally took a 180 degree turn because I experienced some art. And that is what art does. It elevates. Anyone who promotes cutting (funding of) art and music is a criminal in my mind because he helps degrade the culture. How to change that? I don’t know. It would take very powerful players like Bill Gates or Donald Trump to force change.

The Hollywood Sentinel: That’s very interesting. Classical music does not get the major publicity that other genres of music do in popular culture such as pop music and rock. Yet it is equally if not more important. Why do you feel that is, and should classical be more publicized or is it how it should be?

Continued on next page.

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