Dubbed “the Mozart of Gen Z” by internationally renowned choral conductor Suzi Digby, 16-year-old composer, vocalist, and actor Samuel L. Siskind, is a once in a generation talent.
Samuel joins us on Close-Up Culture to talk about his music journey and some of his exciting projects.
Hi Samuel, welcome to Close-Up Culture. What are your earliest memories of falling in love with music and performing?
Music has always been in my life; every step of the way, I’ve heard it around me.
My mother particularly liked classical, world music and some pop and classic rock so that was the soundtrack I heard in the womb and she would always dance with me and sing to me when I was young.
I remember telling my parents that I was disappointed in 1st and 2nd grade music class because it was too short. Then we just kept adding music lessons and opportunities until I had no time for playdates after school; only music and my own imagination.
From a young age, our family prioritized concerts at Walt Disney Concert Hall, home of the LA Philharmonic. Visits to my grandparents included my dad getting tickets to Broadway musicals and my mother took me to operas at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
How would you describe your style and approach to music?
Through my participation in music programs I’ve come to understand that my approach is timeless and simple. For me, music must be both interesting and full of fresh ideas, but most importantly beautiful.
You were recently commissioned to compose a reimagined Renaissance classic for the Golden Bridge concert. Can you tell us about that honor?
The commission was humbling for many reasons. Top of mind was the company of composers also invited to take part. They were some of the greatest choral composers and music educators in the state of California, which some believe is currently experiencing a Golden Age in choral composing.
Secondly, to be asked to reimagine some of the most esteemed Renaissance choral composers was such an utterly joyful endeavor. It was like starting out the work at the top of what is possible, using their works as inspiration and going from there to create something new.
Finally, collaborating with a conductor of Suzy Digby’s stature and experiencing her powerful chorus bring my work to life in a gorgeous Beverly Hills Mediterranean church setting was that of dreams.
You have a role in the independent feature, The Uncanny. What interested you about the project and this opportunity to act?
When I wasn’t singing or playing music I began acting when I was around 10 years old after performing a principal role with the LA Opera Community production of Noye’s Fludde.
I did a couple other live stage shows as well both in LA and NY, mostly musicals, so I came to acting through music. The producers for “The Uncanny” discovered me on a casting website and I went to meet with them and we hit it off immediately.
This movie challenged me in the ways I seek to grow. It gave me the chance to play many parts. The personalities of these characters including a scary angry bully made me stretch into the uncomfortable and the beautiful theme of the movie moved me to take part and be transported.
What can you tell us about the role and your experience working on the film?
I was only 13 at the time, and just entering vocal change (for boys this can take years) so “The Uncanny” was my final project as a soprano. Looking back, I’m grateful because I got to learn a beautiful Italian Aria, “Panis Angelicus” which brought the ethereal quality to the plot climax scenes. Now my voice has dropped to an adult male range and I am enjoying singing in an entirely new way.
“The Uncanny” independent feature film has been recognized at film festivals in the U.S. and Europe this Spring, and I’m so happy for the immensely talented mother/daughter writing, producing and directing team. The costumes and set were deeply layered with vintage looks that spanned 100 years of California history in an old house. After we shot the first scene, they offered me a couple of other cameos, and to work on the soundtrack as a vocal soloist for the plot climax scene.
How do you like to spend your time away from performing?
I like to relax with my family, go on walks, road trips, camp and I love technology; so my hobbies include keeping up to date on the latest consumer tech trends whether Tesla’s or Apple devices.
I love photography, extreme skiing and flying planes as well as sailing. I grew up near Marina Del Rey in Los Angeles and my brother was a CIT sailing instructor as a teenager for the UCLA summer camps so he took me out in his tiny Sabot sailboat for long afternoons when I was quite young… just the two of us would spend hours riding the waves which were much bigger than we were in that little bathtub of a boat.
Whether sailing, skiing or flying I suppose you could say I enjoy surfing the currents… which is kind of the feeling listening to a great piece of music should give you. I like to take random photos of nature and beautiful things I love or am doing… You can see some of my photos posted on my Instagram @samuelsiskind.
You’ve been dubbed ‘the Mozart of Gen Z’. What would you love to achieve with your talents?
I see it as a responsibility to live up to all compliments though I don’t get lost in any grandiose labels however well intended because at the end of the day I’m just me living my life and trying to spend as much time doing what I love like everyone else.
I have been blessed by some amazing teachers and they have taught me to be the best I can every single day I practice. My goals are against what I did the day before and to challenge myself in choice of material and accepting performance opportunities that scare me.
I would love to have the opportunity to continue developing and bringing beauty to audiences through my music, voice and acting. This would be more than anyone could ask for.
Do you have any upcoming projects or ambitions to share with us?
I just finished an amazing choral performance on the big stage at Carnegie Hall yesterday and I have a couple of solo features with upcoming concerts in LA. I am very excited to be writing my first classical piece for solo voice which I got to practice with live piano accompaniment for the first time in NY on Friday.
All of my previous vocal works have been for choir. I’m now writing an aria with the idea of performing it myself and I’m very excited to debut this work in the fall/winter 2023 at several classical vocal competitions.
I’m also looking towards next year to record my concert works to date so that they will be available to the public on wide ranging music sites like Apple and Spotify.
Finally, I’m very excited to participate with my choir, the National Children’s Chorus in a UK based singing tour in July (Scotland, Wales, England) and to record their first Christmas album in London at Abbey Road Studios where the Beatles famously recorded.
Photo Credit: The Riker Brothers
Follow Samuel on Instagram – @samuelsiskind
Visit Samuel’s website – SAMUEL SISKIND