Maya Beiser has etched a bold career path that marries classical to rock, starched collars to casual dress, and tradition to unorthodoxy. With an eclectic repertory of works by John Tavener, Tan Dun, Osvaldo Golijov, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Led Zeppelin, and many others from all over the musical map, she plays what many call indie-classical or alternative classical. However one defines her, Beiser clearly enters the world of contemporary music with a willingness to take risks. Her freewheeling performance style, which may involve electronics, lighting effects, projected imagery, spoken poetry, and all manner of sounds from the cello, has helped gain her a wide audience of adventurous listeners. Beiser has performed at jazz concerts and festivals and has made a string of popular recordings, scattered over several labels, including Sony and Nonesuch. Beiser has appeared at Carnegie Hall, Chicago's Ravinia Festival, and the major concert venues in Tokyo, Sydney, Paris, Athens, Barcelona, and countless other cities.
Maya Beiser was born in Gazit, Israel, on December 31, 1963. Raised in a kibbutz, she began studying piano first, but at age eight took up the cello. At 11 she was discovered by Isaac Stern, who became a mentor. For her mandatory military duties, she served as the cellist in the Israeli Military String Quartet. Beiser relocated to the U.S. in 1985 and had advanced studies at Yale University School of Music. Among her teachers were Aldo Parisot, Alexander Schneider, and Uzi Wiesel. In 1992 she gave her New York City recital debut at the 92nd Street Y in a program of works by Shostakovich, Janácek, and other notables. That same year she helped form the Bang on a Can All-Stars. The group had numerous successful recordings, but Beiser soon developed a thriving solo career also. Her first album, Oblivión, offering works by Piazzolla and Nin, appeared on Koch International in 1999.
By the early years of the new century she was a major star. Her sold-out Carnegie Hall concert on October 30, 2003, received rave reviews. Beiser's performance of Reich's Cello Counterpoint on the 2005 Nonesuch CD You Are (Variations) was a popular and critical success. In 2008 Beiser fashioned the concert work Provenance using music by several Middle Eastern, American, and British composers. The piece had great success in concert, and its 2010 recording, on the Innova label, generated both critical acclaim and brisk sales. She created and toured successfully her multimedia, multi-style productions Elsewhere: A CelloOpera in 2012 and All Vows in 2014. Some of the music in All Vows became her 2014 album Uncovered, a collection of re-imagined rock masterpieces. 2016's TranceClassical covered music ranging from Bach and Hildegard von Bingen to Lou Reed and Imogen Heap.
Beiser's TEDTalk from the 2011 TED mainstage has been viewed nearly 900,000 times. In 2015, she was named a United States Artists (USA) Distinguished Fellow in Music.