Samuel Siskind is Putting in 20 Hours Per Week to Reach Career Goals

By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief

Samuel Siskind’s resume includes musical theater, feature film, vocalist, television/web commercial and short film credits.

He played a lead role in “Newsies” at Morgan Wixson Theatre, took on a supporting role in feature film “Uncanny,” and has been a soloist at Lincoln Center and Royce Hall.

“We’ve sang at The Vatican, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall,” Samuel listed.

Oh, and he just turned 12 years old.

Samuel, who identifies as a pianist, singer, composer and actor, has trained and performed at Palisadian institutions since he was 6 years old when he started to study with Jy Gronner, founder of Palisades Music School—which offers the Simply Music method.

“When I opened a new school in LA, Samuel was one of my first students,” Gronner explained. “I, along with his family and growing audiences, have all been rewarded in witnessing the remarkable results and the more long-term influence of the program on his playing, reading and ability to immediately sit in, participate and thrive in any musical situation.”

“Jy was putting up signs on Swarthmore and Sunset, I saw her and thought, ‘Sam likes to play piano, he just hasn’t found the right teacher yet, let’s give this a try,’” Samuel’s father, Steve, shared with the Palisadian-Post. “She was really nice, we went up and talked to her when she was right outside Pearl Dragon.”

Samuel’s mother, Moira, explained that he was a kindergartener at Westside Waldorf School at the time.

“He’s been in music classes since he was 6 months old and he did Music Rhapsody … it’s a wonderful program for toddlers and infants,” Moira explained. “He’s always been musical and rhythmic.”

Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

At Palisades Music School, Samuel started with the Play-a-Story curriculum, which includes having children draw pictures of music and act out their feelings and do improv.

Palisadians may recognize Samuel from his regular gig playing with Gronner and the school at the Pacific Palisades Farmers Market starting at the age of 8.

The farmers market was Samuel’s first paid musical gig. 

“Samuel is really an improvisational pianist,” Moira explained. “Aside from Play-a-Story, the most valuable thing that we’ve received from Jy is that he learned to perform in front of big audiences through her recitals. The recitals are so valuable, and how she coaches children when they’re young.”

“We all believed that we were performing in front of three million people when we were like 5—it was really funny,” Samuel shared with a laugh.

Moira explained that at this age, Samuel would come home from school and complain that he wasn’t getting enough music in school.

“At my old school, everyone would just talk in music class and ignore the teachers—we weren’t even learning notation or anything,” Samuel said.

Around this time, Samuel signed up for an audition with the National Children’s Chorus. After a long wait, Samuel began singing.

“We literally waited nine months for him to start singing in the choir and once he did, he very soon after enrolled in private voice, and then within six months, [the instructor] said you should audition for the opera and it was just amazing that he got the top youth principal role in ‘Noah’s Flood,’” Moira shared.

Moira explained that once Samuel performed with the LA Opera, he really got the bug for professional level performance.

“If we hadn’t found the choir, I don’t know if we would have recognized the level that he was capable of going to,” Moira said.

At this point Samuel added more classes to his already busy music schedule, studying alongside vocal coach Dr. Pamela Blackstone and private lessons with Professor Ian Krouse.

“Samuel completed his first three-part choral piece last June,” Moira said. “And he just completed a modern waltz, which he will also present, and he’s beginning to orchestrate.”

Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

So now, at the age of 12, Samuel can add composer to his resume.

If that wasn’t keeping him busy enough, Samuel figured out that he also liked acting.

“We noticed I liked acting and then I was in ‘A Chorus Line,’” he explained. He then landed roles in short films, followed by his first feature film.

Moira explained that one of the hardest parts of supporting Samuel’s journey is knowing what’s next for his ever-changing path.

“It’s just so hard to know in arts education,” she shared. “Samuel does not have an agent, we’re doing all of this on our own just for the love of it. He was in fourth grade when he got the opera role, he had to miss a lot of school—they weren’t that happy about it.”

To pursue his career—which requires about 20 hours per week of instruction and rehearsals—the family decided to make the “very painful decision” to leave school in the beginning of Samuel’s fifth-grade year.

They just approached the one-year mark of beginning homeschooling, and Samuel said that everything is going well.

“He really loves it now,” Moira shared.

When the Post asked Samuel if he gets nervous before shows, the response was a calm and certain “no.”

“That’s when I knew that this was the real deal,” Moira shared.

“The LA Opera was in front of 3,000 people,” Sam added.

“I was about to fall apart that morning, my heart was beating,” Moira continued.

“I calmed her down,” Sam said.

“One thing I’ll say as a mom is the path is uncharted when you’re supporting somebody’s creativity unfolding, so for me, I’ve really appreciated all of the teachers who have supported him,” Moira shared. “I’m learning how genuine so many of the artists are and just learning to appreciate the path of anyone who has succeeded in any of these areas because it isn’t easy.”

Samuel’s upcoming performances include as part of the Pacific Palisades Woman’s Club Home Tour on Jan. 20, as well as Celestial Voices at Bel Air Presbyterian Church on Dec. 15 at 7 p.m.