Spring grad represents Kennesaw State at international music academy

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jul 8, 2022

A natural on stage at the piano, Sammy Mishkin flies through George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” in an empty concert hall, serene as his fingers fly over the keys.

Mishkin finds sanctuary in music, which has been his passion for more than half his life and will now become his career.

“Music has always been there for me,” he said. “Music just provides a sense of comfort and allows me to be who I am, live in my skin and be confident in my abilities.”

Sammy Mishkin

Mishkin, who graduated magna cum laude in May from the College of the Arts with his Bachelor of Music in performance, wants to be a professional pianist and is taking the first steps toward that goal this summer. He auditioned successfully for the Collaborative Piano Program at the American Institute for Musical Studies (AIMS) in Graz, Austria, where singers and pianists learn techniques to begin a career in Europe’s highly competitive music industry. 

“I’ve heard about this program a lot, and my colleagues, professors and family have been pushing me to pursue these opportunities. So, I decided that now was the right time for me to finally act on my most desired ambitions.” said Mishkin, who grew up in Cumming, Ga. “It’s truly an honor to have earned a spot.”

Mishkin was one of very few undergraduates to earn a spot from among hundreds of applicants. He said the vast majority of the vocalists and pianists at AIMS have or are actively pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree and are seeking career enrichment.

Mishkin, who is also a graduate of KSU Journey Honors College, credits music as a calming outlet for his active mind. His specialty of collaborative piano – playing piano to work with vocalists or instrumentalists – allows Mishkin to process multiple tasks at once.


“Collaborative piano requires a player to jump from one idea to another idea and to be constantly on the move mentally,” Mishkin said. “Some people just have a knack for being able to fixate on 20 different things at once, and that's one of the biggest advantages I have.”

Senior lecturer of music Judith Cole has worked extensively with Mishkin and said he’s the first Kennesaw State piano major to make it into AIMS. KSU vocalists have earned spots there, and University music professors have taught there, but Mishkin’s successful audition is a big moment for the piano program, she said.

“He’s so bright, so committed and so willing to work hard to go where he wants to go,” she said. “To have him make it into AIMS is just a huge step toward putting our program at a higher level of recognition.”

Mishkin’s association with Kennesaw State goes back more than 10 years, when he started taking piano lessons from assistant professor of piano Robert Henry and performing recitals in the Dr. Bobbie Bailey & Family Performance Center. He made an easy choice when it came time to choose a college, and he continued studying with Henry and Cole. A percussionist during his school years growing up, he also took classes in voice and conducting while at KSU but maintained his major in piano.

“I knew I wanted to play music for a living from the time I came to campus, and initially my professors told me to slow down a little,” he said. “But they realized I knew what I wanted to do, and ultimately, they helped me get there. I’m happy with the unique educational experiences and opportunities I got at Kennesaw State.”

The experience at AIMS is focused on honing overall piano skills, but particularly accompaniment with individual vocalists and instrumentalists – “coaching the art song,” according to the AIMS website. Mishkin will participate in master sessions with vocalists and vocal coaches, which he said will make him a more well-rounded and complete musician.

After returning from Austria, Mishkin will spend a year during which he will continue to accompany instrumentalists, singers and choirs around metro Atlanta. He currently offers piano and voice lessons and coaching, and he said he will continue to do that. He plans to pursue a master’s degree starting in the 2023-24 school year, preferably at one of the conservatories in Europe and to continue playing piano for a living, as he has wanted to do for so long.

“It’s always been a long-term career goal of mine to go international as a piano player, and this is the first step,” he said. “My experience at Kennesaw State helped set me on that path.”

—  By Dave Shelles
Photo by David Caselli

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.