From North York to NYC
Julian Milkis is an internationally acclaimed clarinetist
Julian Milkis describes himself as a shy student with English as his second language when he first began attending Northview Heights Secondary School in the mid-1970s.
“I was very active in music, of course. I was a clarinetist in the band,” says the now worldrenowned musician.
Milkis was first introduced to piano at the age of five and switched to clarinet, the instrument that has led him to fame in the music community, at the age of 11.
“Both of my parents were and are musicians, and my father was the concertmaster of the Toronto
“To be thrown into playing principal clarinetist at 17, it was no joke.”
Symphony for 20 years,” he says.
Though his career in music and performance really took off after moving to New York City a few years after high school, Milkis says it was his band leader, Mr. Dobson, at Northview that encouraged him to join the Royal Canadian Air Force Band.
“I was the youngest ever solo clarinetist in the Royal Canadian Air Force Band. When I started I was a little bit embarrassed about it, but now I’m proud,” says Milkis. “To be thrown into playing principal clarinetist at 17, it was no joke.”
His career received its largest boost when he became the only student to study under legendary clarinetist Benny Goodman.
“He opened a lot of horizons musically and just the fact that he accepted me as a student gave me a tremendous boost career-wise. Still now, people are very interested and pretty amazed that it happened,” says Milkis of his mentor.
An accomplished concert performer, Milkis has played all around the world, including venues in Germany, China, South Korea and France. Although there are some venues that he has yet to cross off his list.
“Wigmore Hall in London is one of them, and it’s apparently going to take place within the next two years,” he says of the legendary concert hall in England.
His life now consists of constant travelling and performances.
“It’s a very unusual life. I know my schedule four years ahead of time. Usually people plan a couple of months, but I know where I’m going to be in 2018,” says Milkis.
However, he does note how difficult it was for him to reach this level of success in his career.
“It took years and years because you develop and you change and you grow, hopefully. It did not happen overnight. I was not a child prodigy,” says Milkis.
He echoes that sentiment with the advice he has for budding musicians that aspire to a similar type of career.
“Do it only if you can not live without it because it’s a very difficult life. You’re alone most of the time. When I’m on tour, I can not travel with anybody. It’s a pretty gruelling schedule.”
As for his memories of being a teenage boy in North York, he laughs as he remembers his times of “chasing ladies” and racing cars.
“It’s amazing that I survived without my licence getting suspended,” he says.
Milkis began playing the clarinet at age 11