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The Mind Over Finger Podcast

Oct 4, 2019

Today’s show brings you a powerful and honest conversation on very important topics, including how changing your mindset can change your life, how focusing on your musical voice instead of perfection in execution and external validation can transform your relationship with practicing, enrich your playing, and affect the trajectory of your career. 

Milan Milisavljevic, Principal Viola with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, elaborates on:

  • the major impact a mentor had in his life
  • the importance of knowing where you’re coming from as a musician
  • the importance of having a clear intention of what you want to sound like and listen intently to yourself and monitor your body when playing
  • why shame has no business in the practice room
  • his scale routine
  • how he feels sound production in his arm
  • the importance of “reducing the distance between thought and sound (I love that one!!!)
  • how the fear transmitted from a teacher made him dread practicing, and how that has since changed
  • how he uses the Pomodoro technique
  • why it’s important to be calm when we’re facing things that make us feel uncomfortable
  • how changes in our lives come from us making the effort to go through the reflection and do the work
  • the important of courage in approaching music
  • why serving others and serving music IS THE POINT of music-making!
  • why it’s about “saying something meaningful rather than being perfect”






Widely considered one of the leading violists of his generation, Milan Milisavljević is Principal Viola with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and is on the viola faculty at Mannes School of Music in New York. His performances combine intense expression with an immediate and profound link to his listeners and have won much critical acclaim.

The Strad magazine has described his playing as “very imaginative, with a fine, cultured tone.” Milan’s solo album Sonata-Song, released by Delos Music, has received glowing reviews, with the recording of A. Khachaturian’s solo sonata on the album hailed as “definitive”. He has won prizes at competitions such as Lionel Tertis and Aspen Lower Strings and has performed at Marlboro, Cascade Head, Classical Tahoe, Agassiz and Grand Teton music festivals.

Milan has appeared as soloist throughout the world, with orchestras such as the Munich Chamber Orchestra, the Belgrade Philharmonic, Aspen Sinfonia, Classical Tahoe, Orquesta Filarmónica de Boca del Río and many others. As a chamber musician, he has collaborated with members of the Guarneri and Mendelssohn String Quartets, as well as Joseph Kalichstein, Sergiu Luca, Cho-Liang Lin and many others.

Milan has been heard worldwide on countless recordings and broadcasts of the MET. He previously served as its Assistant Principal Viola for twelve seasons. He is a former member of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and has served as guest Principal Viola of many orchestras, such as the Toronto Symphony.

In addition to his teaching activities at Mannes, Milan has coached violists in masterclasses at universities and conservatories worldwide, as well as at Verbier Music Festival, Aspen Music Festival, and as a volunteer at Ecole de musique St-Trinite in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He is also increasingly in demand as a conductor.

Milan’s teachers include Jutta Puchhammer, Atar Arad, James Dunham, Nobuko Imai and Samuel Rhodes. He plays a viola made by Joseph Curtin of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and is a Larsen Strings Artist.

Milan is also active as a conductor and founder of Music for the People, a New York-based ensemble dedicated to a new perspective and concert experience of classical music. In addition to his musical interests, he is also an avid runner, an occasional triathlete and a huge fan of modern architecture and design, especially the Mid Century Modern style.



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Most sincere thank you to composer Jim Stephenson who graciously provided the show’s musical theme!  Concerto #1 for Trumpet and Chamber Orchestra – Movement 2: Allegro con Brio, performed by Jeffrey Work, trumpet, and the Lake Forest Symphony, conducted by Jim Stephenson.

Also a HUGE thank you to my fantastic producer, Bella Kelly!