From North York to NYC

Ju­lian Milkis is an in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed clar­inetist

Richmond Hill Post - - Graduates - by Nikki Gill

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

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