This music was my communication of love to my mother. My goal for these albums is to bring beauty to unlikely places.”– Misha Segal
Music can be a life preserver and a rescue boat, giving you something to hold onto in treacherous waters, and transporting you to another world. Whether it’s to somewhere tranquil or exciting, music will always take you where you need to be.
Emmy Winner and Israeli Grammy and Oscar nominated composer, Misha Segal, has scored over 140 feature films, including Phantom of the Opera, he’s written for such top artists such as Luther Vandross, and his music has been performed by the Israeli Philharmonic and the Israeli Chamber Ensemble.
But Misha’s busy, passion fueled life came to a dramatic halt when his mother passed away on Mother’s Day. She fought an excruciating battle with lung cancer for six years, and while she was sick, Misha composed and played original piano pieces for her that took her away from her pain. “It was basically my communication of love to my mother, and it really helped her…My mother was my best friend and greatest supporter and inspiration.”
Overcome by grief, Misha was unable to work for a year until his then-girlfriend made a call to Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles, where Misha’s mother had been cared for. The hospital rented a piano, and he found himself playing in the lobby on a day that just happened to be his mother’s birthday.
Misha lives by his mother’s powerful belief that “Things happen for a reason, even if they don’t seem logical at the moment, eventually the reason is revealed.” He realized that he wanted to raise public awareness of this terrible disease, and help inspire and instill hope in those suffering from it.
This was the beginning of a very special tour that had a uniquely personal purpose and message. He went on to play for the City of Hope and UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center in California, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and many other places. He also organized fundraisers and did public service announcements for the Georgia Cancer Coalition and the Lung Cancer Alliance.
The audience was so deeply affected by Misha’s music that people reported feeling an overall sense of peace and tranquility come over them as they listened to it As though the notes were sprinkled with special healing powers, somehow the music provided them with comfort and temporarily freed them from their suffering.
Although dear to his heart, Misha didn’t think he’d ever play these particular musical pieces again. He explains, "I didn’t think of doing anything else with this music because it was very poignant, and very much for a specific audience.” But there are never really endings or set parameters for great ideas. They can unexpectedly resurrect themselves at any moment, transforming into something you never imagined they could be.
Several years later, Misha unexpectedly met up with a highly acclaimed Los Angeles based violin player, Ben Powell, who played on the scores for blockbuster films such Star Wars and Batman. When he heard the music Misha wrote for his mother, he was touched and immediately wanted to be part of it. Ben suggested they form a trio with Michael Valerio, an outstanding bass player he worked with, and The Misha Segal Trio was born.
The original album was provocatively called Female because it was dedicated to his mother, and it was the core of Misha’s concert series, “Beauty Found in Unlikely Places.” More songs were composed and a new album was created, which Misha lovingly titled Songs for My Mother. “It’s all based on the inspiration that my mother gave to me.”
Misha’s humility shines through as he humorously remembers the first time he played piano for his mom, “I said to her, ‘you’re my mom, of course you would tell me I play beautiful music,’ and she said, 'No, no, no. If you played the tuba, I would ask you to go to the train station & play there.'”
Misha’s musical pieces of Female and Songs for My Mother are captivatingly ethereal and cinematic. They make you feel oddly nostalgic for a time period you may not have actually experienced, but wish you did. The audience gets to visit enchanting and wondrous places simply by listening. It’s not only a journey of sound into time and space, but also a trip through emotions. Somehow no matter what you are feeling, the music understands you.
The opening piece, “Ocean to Ocean,” is a tribute to Misha’s mother’s love for America. After escaping the Holocaust, finding out that her parents had been tragically killed by Nazis, and spending most of her life in Israel, she found peace when she visited New York. The city’s refined splendor is magically captured in the melody. “Vienna Air” is a musical depiction of Misha’s mother’s love affair with the vibrant capital of Austria. The picture of a woman dancing through the streets in a flowing dress feeling lighthearted, dreamy and happy comes to mind. The notes sound buoyant as they float effortlessly through the atmosphere.
“And You Were Gone” was a score for a PBS series. Misha came up with the title when he thought a romantic relationship had ended, but it also reminded him of when he played it for his mother, and the beautiful but somber music became a more poignant reminder of the deeper meaning of “goodbye.”
“Three Women” is dedicated to Misha’s mother’s three kind friends who helped care for her at the end of her life. There is something heartbreaking about how the piano and stringed instruments express a mixture of gratitude and sadness.
“An American Impression” is a departure from the rest of the album. Inspired by the vision Misha had of how he thought America would look before he ever got here, the violins evoke a strong Americana vibe. Classical with a touch of country, you can picture the old west and southern charm of America seen in black and white films while listening to it.
“Her Thoughts Roam Paris” was written after Misha’s mother passed away. Misha wrote it trying to imagine Paris from her point of view. Timeless and graceful, the music captures the very essence of what it feels like walking through Paris’ animated streets.
Misha explains, “My goal for these albums is to bring beauty to unlikely places.” Through his music, Misha’s mother’s unbreakable spirit still soars and her memory lives on, continuing to bring comfort, joy and peace to others.