Samuel Siskind, Composer, Performer and Actor

Samuel Siskind

Samuel Siskind is a young sixteen-year-old composer, vocal performer and actor from Los Angeles. As a resident of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Composer Fellowship Program (LA Phil Composer Fellowship Program), he is currently in his second year of high school in Los Angeles. In addition to his already large compositional works, which he had the opportunity to present in the world’s largest halls such as Carnegie Hall, Royce Hall or the University of California, in February, at the invitation of the artistic director of the prestigious ensemble “The Golden Bridge” Suzi Digby, his work was performed at All Saints Church in Beverly Hills. The biography of this artist is enriched by the experience of filming in Hollywood, when Matthew Wilder recorded several of his pieces in the studio “Capitol Records”. Samuel’s choral piece The Forest was selected for performance on the National Children’s Choir’s major tour of Asia. The versatility of this young artist is also reflected in his unusual sports activities and hobbies. In addition to skiing and sailing, Samuel is currently working on getting his license to fly small planes.

As a six-month-old baby, you were introduced to music, which led you to write your first composition at the age of eight, and at the age of twelve, choral work The Forest, was performed by the National Children’s Chorus in their major U.S. cities and summer tour of Asia. What are your memories of those beginnings and encounters with composing? What prompted you to choose composing and vocal performance?

I was fortunate to be introduced to the piano through a creative method my dad found at our local farmers market. It’s called Simply Music, and the first series for young children introduces various musical concepts through drawing pictures and playing out feelings on the keyboard. I remember doing my homework for this class. I was about five, and we were given a story theme to draw with crayons. Then we put the picture up on the piano, and played that picture… the curriculum was called Play-A-Story. I already had a childhood filled with imaginative play, so once I learned how to play my feelings it was addictive, and composing became my go to pastime. When I played repertoire, whether alone or in public places, I often modified and expounded on pieces to make them more interesting, and bring them alive. Vocal performance came naturally, as I sought more music education than my school’s singing class. My parents found the National Children’s Chorus (NCC), and I auditioned at the end of 2nd grade, and began in the fall of 3rd grade.

Besides your piece The Forest being performed by the National Children’s Chorus, certain pieces of yours caught the attention of producer Matthew Wilder, who recorded those pieces at the iconic Hollywood studio Capitol Records. What is it like to be part of the Hollywood world? What are your memories from that recording session?

Recording at Capital was one of the most meaningful days of my life. Matthew had booked the musicians and studio time at Capitol well in advance. However the week of the recording session, Disney Studios urgently needed a score recorded. Several of the musicians on my piece were called to work on the Disney project. Every one of them decided to stick with me. At such a young age, seeing so many people believe in and trust me, inspired me to work harder.

Many composers have their role models when it comes to designing a piece and rely on the melodies of Bach, Mozart, Chopin… Do you have a role model? During the work process, do you find inspiration in the works of classical music composers or some other genre?

Listening to classical radio, I was exposed to many of the great classical composers at a young age. Singing with the choir only expanded my repertoire into great vocal pieces of the Western European traditions. I’m always finding and listening to new music, often driven by upcoming projects and performances.

During your performances, not only is your composition performed, but you also sing. What fulfills you more at the moment – singing or composing?

The day my choral piece, The Forest, was introduced to my peers at the NCC, I was truly beside myself, very uncomfortable and unsure of how it would be received. My relief wouldn’t come for a few weeks, until they had mastered the song, and I could see that my friends were enjoying singing it. Standing on stage and hearing their joy in singing melodies and text that I worked on after school for years was simply exhilarating. It made me feel that what was personal to me could be universal, and their reaction to it as my first audience was the greatest gift. Last month, I had a commissioned piece performed by professional vocalists at The Golden Bridge Concert, in Beverly Hills. I also found it very nerve wracking to be at the live premier performance with an audience, but I felt a thousand times better once I received the recording. It was very fulfilling. I also put a lot of work into my vocals, and enjoy performing in front of audiences. I’m looking forward to performing in the Tinker of Tivoli in Vail this August, and touring the UK this Summer before recording a Christmas album with the National Children’s Chorus at Abbey Roads Studios in London.

In what genre do you see yourself as a composer, would you like to do film, jazz music or do you still prefer a traditional classical style?

Because my early introduction to playing and composing music was so fluid, I don’t feel bound by styles. I have used jazz influences in a number of my concert pieces. I first explored these themes as a study of Gershwin and Copeland in my 3 movement piece, Piano Concerto for Orchestra (2021). I also use some jazz in my new choral cycle, Release (2022). I am purely driven by creative impulses of what sounds most interesting or moving. I am a film lover, as my dad works in the business, and we’ve done weekly home screenings since I was 3 years old. At this point, I am taking my composing work as it comes. Whatever projects come to me I will happily adapt.

What subject or area in the school you attend most inspires you and helps form your compositional taste and style?

One of the first things I learned from my composing mentor, Dr. Ian Krouse, is that composing is like writing a story, you’re taking the audience on a journey. Of course this goes back to my first piano class, and Play-A-Story. I was fortunate to have an outstanding English teacher at Crossroads School for the Arts and Sciences, Julian Laurent, and I invited him to the premier of my recent choral premier because I felt so indebted to him for teaching me the discipline and structure of writing. He is also a musician. Modern history has also been an inspiration for me as I do my pieces, especially studying the eras when many of the composers I admire were working. When I experience a new piece to perform, I often like to know the circumstances around the time it was written. Most composers have many other interests outside of music, because writing music comes from experiencing life.

Samuel giving notes to the choir

When writing a piece for a choral ensemble, what is the biggest challenge for you in the process of working and writing the score?

When writing a choral piece, I find the hardest aspect, creating an original text. Although once I have an idea, I can write my texts in one brief sitting. Discovering the idea can be very challenging, and requires weeks of research and thought.

Samuel with his mentors Drs. Ian Krouse and Pamela Blackstone hearing his piece “Out from the Deep” for the first time

The last commission of your work came from the vocal ensemble “The Golden Bridge” and its artistic director Suzi Digby, making you the youngest composer to receive a commission. How would you describe the process of working and composing that choral piece? What inspired you the most?

The commission by The Golden Bridge was the next leap in building my abilities to write, and collaborate. I never dwelled on the fact that I was so much younger than the previous composers, I just tried to do my best. However, because I was so young, I had to be very disciplined to reward their faith in me.

Samuel with the Golden Bridge Choir and Suzi Digby, Artistic Director, Founder and Conductor.

Your versatility can also be seen in your many hobbies and activities, such as skiing and sailing, and you are due to get your private pilot’s license soon – where does that adventurous spirit come from? Why did you want a pilot’s license specifically?

Most people find their hobbies through being exposed to them. As a teenager, my older brother was a CIT sailing instructor for UCLA summer camp. He had a small boat, and would enjoy taking me around the marina as a boy. My dad took us to the Rocky Mountains every February so I learned to ski. My mom used to take me to eat sushi at the Santa Monica Airport, and watch the planes come and go after school sometimes. I love aviation, and always have. I hope that one day I might have the means to own a small aircraft to fly myself.

Considering your unusual hobby and sporting activities, can art and composing be compared to flying an airplane or sailing? Do you find any commonality in what helps you feel free and fulfilled?

Listening to a great piece of music should make you feel like you’re flying or sailing on an ocean – or freestyling down a mountain. The creativity in plotting your next move is akin to the joy composing brings me. The possibilities are infinite, and the satisfaction in carving out a path where there wasn’t one before is a true high.

What does composing music in general mean to you, how do you perceive it and in what direction would you like to develop your interests and abilities?

Composing music feels like my playground. Music is a language that everyone can understand, and appreciate – so I feel I’m working on something worthwhile. I have been composing music for so long that I literally don’t know what I would do without it. It’s very second nature to me, and makes me feel happy; like the world is ok. When I look back on pieces I’ve written a couple years ago, I feel embarrassed. I’ve learned so much, but that’s the nature of growing up, and continuing to learn. I feel honored every time anyone hears my music or is interested in my music.

Author: Katarina Georgijević


The MERITA project, whose name is derived from the words Music – cultural hERItage – TAlent, aims to improve access and participation in cultural activities, both in larger and smaller towns, promoting European cultural heritage, while strengthening the connection between online and offline engagement, enters a decisive phase. After 61 applications from 27 countries that arrived on the MERITA digital platform, the names of 38 quartets chosen to become part of an innovative European project that aims to encourage the discovery of new places that will not only overcome geographical boundaries but also conceptual, cognitive and artistic ones, have been announced. The quartets consist of young people with an average age of between 28 and 29, among whom there are 91 women and 61 men, and they come from all over Europe (Denmark, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Holland, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the United Kingdom, Poland, Serbia, Finland, Greece).

This project, although still young and at the beginning of its implementation, attracted a lot of attention. This is evidenced by the large number of applications from chamber ensembles, which recognized a new, unusual approach to art and the presentation of young artists. The organizers claim that the word “quartet” is taken as a metaphor for an ideal society, a meeting place of different cultures, which through mutual dialogue builds beauty, taste aesthetics and a lasting artistic bond. In addition to the possibility of live performances, MERITA provides another very important source of information and another gathering place, which is the already mentioned digital platform. It aims to contribute to the building of mutual cooperation, as well as to the improvement of culture and identity.

Francesca Moncada Fondatrice e Presidente de Le Dimore del Quartetto
Photo © Diego Molaschi

In this regard, Francesca Moncada, founder and president of the “Le Dimore del Quartetto” network and the board of the Comitato AMUR, presents this project in the following words: “MERITA is the crowning of a European dream, music as a universal language capable of giving new life to places and spaces waiting to be rediscovered. A dialogue between cultures, arts, communities and territories for the creation of a circular economy and sustainable culture to support simple and proximity-based tourismAll this is MERITA and much more, with this project wins beauty for all.”

With the idea of being a “promotional showcase for artists”, this platform will bring classical music and European heritage sites of cultural interest closer to a new audience. Francesca Moncada goes on to say: “These formations of outstanding young musicians represent a vibrant and intercultural Europe, rooted in tradition and capable of moving towards an innovative and multisensory future. Each quartet is sacred and MERITA will give us the opportunity to discover how this diverse formation of collective intelligence can ignite places and people”.

Undoubtedly, this project has awakened many young artists and united chamber ensembles, making them through acquaintance, togetherness, building contacts, as well as artistic creation prove that art as such is equal for everyone and accessible to everyone. By performing the works of timeless composers in old settings, which preserve the centuries-old tradition, they now gain a new meaning and become fresh with the new spirit of youth, beauty of sound and modernity.

Tommaso Sacchi Assessore alla Cultura del Comune di Milano
Photo ©Alessandra Cinquemani

The Councillor for Culture of the municipality of Milano Tommaso Sacchi also speaks about this: “Le Dimore del Quartetto continues its goal of supporting and spreading musical culture, with a project of European scope, capable of strengthening the ties between the many different cultures that make it up. It is a project that not only promotes the circulation and expansion of string quartets, but also supports the activity of young artists, helping to strengthen in them, under the guise of music, that sense of identity that unites all European culture.”

Simone Gramaglia_Direttore artistico de Le Dimore del Quartetto
Simone Gramaglia Direttore artistico de Le Dimore del Quartetto

The artistic director of the “Le Dimore del Quartetto” network, Simone Gramaglia, says about the MERITA project that it “combines tradition and innovation in a concrete way. Wonderful 38 selected young quartets will have the opportunity to perform, to be heard, supported and above all to express themselves on the international level. Their message and their voice will be able to leave an important mark in the world of music through a strong network that combines passion, vision, determination to create a better future through beauty.” In this regard, it can be said that this project is a chance for young people to present themselves to the world, but also to push their own boundaries by becoming new, more mature people, with the potential to transfer their experiences to some new generations. This already paves a long-term path towards artistic growth and preparation for some new and better times, in which traditional values will be preserved, nurtured and improved together with youth.

You can find out more about the selected ensembles, as well as the further realization of the MERITA project, on its official website:

Author: Katarina Georgijević

Translation: Jelena Čolović

Petar Pejčić, cellist

Petar Pejčić
photo: © Clara Evens

This twenty-one-year-old cellist attracted the attention of the world public by entering the final and winning fifth place at one of the most prestigious competitions – “Queen Elisabeth” in Brussels. The artist captivates with extraordinary talent, clear, precise movements of the bow, in harmony with his body, like a ballet dancer, a piercing and refined sound and above all, an authentic and natural expression on stage, which leaves no one indifferent. Coming from a musical family, he started playing the cello at the age of four, which today is his life’s vocation and faithful companion. Apart from the fact that many people in Serbia know about him as the winner of the “Art Link Société Générale” prize and recognition for the most promising young musician in 2018 and the winner of the first and special prizes at the Republic Competition in Serbia in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016, they remember him for his great successes in the world, as well. Among his numerous recognitions are the special prizes of the company AENA at the renowned competition “Pablo Casals” in Spain, the second prize at the International Competition “Anna Kull” in Austria, the third place at the “Felix Mendelssohn” competition, as well as the fifth place at the “Queen Elisabeth” competition, where among 66 candidates he entered the final with 12 participants. He also shows his versatility through collaboration with Jacopo Godani and ballet dancers in contemporary theater projects. Since 2017, he has been studying in Leipzig at the University of Music and Theater Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy in the class of Professor Peter Bruns.

The Youth Choir of Church of St Basil of Ostrog (New Belgrade)

In addition to numerous well-attended services, priests and rich architecture, the Church of St. Basil the Wonderworker of Ostrog in New Belgrade is adorned with three choirs: a large church choir, youth and children. Although each exudes a special warmth and spirituality, for the past three years, the youth choir, which consists of elementary school students, high school students and freshmen have attracted the most attention. In addition to their concert performances, its members regularly sing at Holy Liturgies on Saturdays and participate in Sunday and Feast Liturgies when required. The choir was founded at the initiative of Jelena Timotijević, with the blessing and support of the church’s clergy, and in addition to performing skills, it is adorned with mutual love, warmth and unity, which young members selflessly exchange. In addition to numerous concerts, they also showed their skills at the “Music Edict” in Niš, where they attracted special attention, especially from world choirs, with their unusual repertoire.

Nikola Jeremić

A film composer, a native of Šabac, created film themes imbued with the melodies of ambient, rock and pop music, with an unusual sound design, attracted the attention of the world film industry as a student, participating in conferences across Europe and America where he was awarded five times for his work in the field of sound and music for visual media by the Audio Engineering Society (AES). Through his first compositions in the films The Killer Mermaid, Amanet and The Rift, he formed a recognizable artistic style and attracted the attention of many fans of film music. His works have been broadcast and performed on many radio and television stations, cinemas and YouTube. At the second short film festival “Revolution Me” in New York in 2015, he was awarded for the best music for the short film Tata. He is currently mostly dedicated to composing music for video games, among which Destiny 2, Warhammer 40K Battlefleet Gothic Armada 2, Pagan Online, Starpoint Gemini and many others stand out. He established cooperation with the Radio-Television of Vojvodina, for which he composes music for the radio drama Kosingas by Aleksandar Tešić. In addition to his artistic work, he is currently an associate lecturer at the Belgrade SAE Institute.


Nikola Ćirić

This artist, a native of Niš, captivates with his modesty, but also with great talent. Holding the horn, the queen of instruments, in his hands, in front of eminent artists such as Zubin Mehta, Krzysztof Penderecki, Emmanuel Pahud, Stefan Dohr, Steven Isserlis and many others, he attracted the attention of the world public.

Irena Josifoska

The youngest participant in the semifinals of the “Queen Elisabeth” Competition in Belgium, the 24-year-old artist started playing her first cello tones at the age of five, in the class of Judit Niderholcer Josifoski, and before going to study in Germany she studied at the Novi Sad Academy of Arts in the class of Marko Miletić. She is known to have extraordinary talent, to be adorned with great musicality, with which she manages to perform some of the most difficult works written for cello with the most renowned symphony orchestras. In addition to great successes and recognitions at the most prestigious competitions, she especially attracted media attention of the domestic and world public by participating in the “Queen Elisabeth” competition in Brussels, to which participants up to the age of 35 can apply. After completing her studies in the class of Ksenija Janković at the University of Music in the German city of Detmold last year, she continued her musical training in Berlin at the University of the Arts in the class of Jens Peter Maintz. She gained the attention of the Berlin audience with her performance in the Berlin Philharmonic Hall with the German Symphony Orchestra.

Hadži Jakov Milutinović

A young man, who with his nobility and talent draws the attention of the local and international public. At the early age of 14, he wrote his first composition “Sve si premudro stvorio, Bože” which was brought to life by the Niš church choir “Branko” at prestigious concert halls such as the Moscow and Warsaw conservatories, and then the oldest theater in Mexico and the Ilija M. Kolarac Endowment, the Novi Sad Synagogue but also at Christ’s Tomb in Jerusalem and the Church of Saint Sava in Belgrade. This young artist, with his modesty, captivates and awakens admiration with his art of composing, permeating the subtle melodies that emerged from the foundations of Byzantine music.

I have visited all of those halls with the “Branko” Niš choir. In some of those halls, some of my other compositions were performed, in some there weren’t any of my compositions on the repertoire at all. However, it is always a great pleasure to represent my culture in such classical music temples that somehow give you inspiration to show the world how valuable our culture is. The composition, “Sve si premudro stvorio, Bože” is a piece I wrote at the age of 14, and is the first composition I wrote for the choir. The lyrics were taken from the first collection of poems “Košulja od snova” by my mother, Hadži Marina Milutinović. What is interesting is that, that poem “Sve si premudro stvorio, Bože”, is in a way my peer, because it was written by my mother in 2001, the year when I was born. Many wonderful people participated in the creation and performance of this composition. Thanks to them, this work has travelled through many countries. What is the most precious to me is, when performers enjoy playing my music, I think that is crucial for a composition.