Joel Michael-Schwartz is an electrifying and versatile young mandolinist/composer based in Baltimore, MD. Comfortable playing Bach, bebop, funk, flamenco, traditional celtic, and much more, he brings passion, command, and a quirky sense of fun to all his artistic endeavors.
He hails from Evanston, Illinois, where he studied with Don Steirnberg and Rick Veras. He played celtic fiddle and mandolin throughout his childhood, immersed in Chicago’s strong Celtic music community. He began to study jazz with Don Steirnberg, and continued these studies at Goucher College in the Baltimore area, where he studied jazz and classical mandolin with professors Jeffrey Chappell, Steve Yankee, and David Evans, and studied composition under Kendall Kennison.. He graduated cum laude and with honors in music in 2015, majoring in mandolin performance and composition. Joel performed as the soloist with the Goucher College orchestra twice; once performing the Hasse Mandolin Concerto, and once premiering his own Mandolin Concerto no. 1, as well as serving as Assistant Conductor. He was three times the recipient of the prestigious Rosenberg scholarship, as well as winning Robert Hall Lewis Award in Music and the Pollock Memorial Prize in Music, 2014
Joel currently collaborates and performs in a variety of Baltimore-based ensembles, including the jazz/classical group Duo Dolce, chamber folk songwriter Eli August, and an electric funk trio, The Cheeky Binders, and teaches guitar, mandolin, and composition privately.
Dedicated to his instrument and to the art of solo and small group performance, Joel is constantly trying to push his boundaries and that of his instrument, be it through composition, improvised concerts, solo performances, or whatever else comes his way. This leads him from serious “high art” to groove-based to profoundly goofy music. This eclecticism has recently found particular focus in adapting the music of flamenco to the mandolin.
Much of Joel’s work is dedicated to expanding the world and music of the mandolin, creating new works, and putting the mandolin in new, exciting contexts. This takes many forms, including fusing far reaching styles both familiar and strange to the mandolin family, contributing to the classical mandolin repertoire by composing, commissioning, and collaborating on new works, and the research and creation of the flamenco mandolin.
When not trying to draw music from his instrument or wandering in search of adventure, Joel can be found reading history, Oliver Sachs, and pie recipes.