Today we have the distinct pleasure of interviewing one of our own team members at Musical U.

Andrew Bishko is our Content Editor and Product Manager at Musical U, which means he’s in charge of overseeing everything we publish and also the teaching material we continue to expand and improve inside Musical U itself.

But as you’re about to discover, despite his huge contributions at Musical U, this represents just one small part of a long and fascinating career as a musician, composer, author and music educator.

Andrew has performed and toured professionally in a number of bands, taught private instrument lessons, published a book and taught university courses in the US. He’s played a wide variety of instruments, from piano to accordion to flute and Native American flute to a recent new addition, the guitarrón. He’s played in styles as varied as classical, folk, reggae, jazz, Klezmer – and even a Pink Floyd tribute band.

In this conversation you’ll discover:

  • How he went from classical Chopin recitals on piano to touring the world playing flute in a reggae band.
  • The one genre of music that resonated most deeply with him emotionally and caused him to focus on it for 15 years.
  • Why the best way to learn to improvise might involve being taught how to go sit on a rock.

This one runs long! And that was with us being very self-controlled and not diving into any one of several topics along the way which we would have loved to pick Andrew’s brains on further. After 90 minutes we felt like we’d barely scratched the surface, and there are a ton of interesting and useful insights packed into this conversation for you. You’ll see why we consider it an honour and a privilege to have Andrew on the Musical U team.

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We interview our own Andrew Bishko on his varied and fascinating career - which spans decades spent exploring, performing, creating, and teaching music.



Wow! That was definitely our longest interview on the show so far – but I wasn’t surprised since I knew going in just how rich, varied and fascinating a musical story Andrew has. He’s managed to pack about two or three lifetime’s worth of music careers into one, I think!

I’m going to do my best to summarise and pull out the most interesting bits. But if I miss anything important or there’s anything that really resonated with you I’m sure Andrew would love to hear from you directly – you can reach out at

Andrew has had a phenomenally interesting and successful career as a musician and music educator. But you might not have guessed it based on his early music experiences. With vocal nodules that prevented him from singing, a piano learning experience that made him feel more like he was memorising tricks to perform than really becoming a musician, and getting sent to his room to stay there until he could produce a sound from his flute, it’s fair to say Andrew was not the child prodigy that his later career might lead you to believe!

Still, it’s clear that Andrew loved music from the beginning, enjoying the rich musical environment at home, banging on his family’s baby grand piano, and exploring different genres through records. Flute became his main instrument and the cultural assumption that girls play flute prompted him to seek out male flute players and discover new genres and explore music from all around the world.

Although he didn’t study music at university it was interesting to hear how his studies there, particularly a course on poetry, equipped him with a detail-oriented analytical skillset that he said he later brought to many activities in his musical life and teaching.

After university he supported himself living in Italy through busking on the street, developing his ability to improvise and play by ear and finding to his delight that as long as he could play, he could eat. A collaboration with a reggae bassist inspired him to want to play more reggae and although flute isn’t the most common instrument in that genre he was able to dive into the burgeoning Cleveland FIXME CHECK reggae scene and join a new band, Satta, a dynamic and diverse group of musicians almost the polar opposite of the academic world he’d found too stifling to consider continuing with. He went on tour the world with the band, taking up saxophone and percussion and playing keyboard again as well as the flute.

One pivotal experience during that time was an encouter with Crazy Coyote, a mountain man in Utah who introduced him to the Native American Flute. Andrew formed a bond with the instrument and almost 20 years later would be given one as a gift, learn to play it by “letting the instrument teach him” as he put it, and formulate his unique approach of improvisational playing in a book for Mel Bay titled “How to Sit on a Rock”. It was great to hear more about the origins of how Andrew thinks about improvisation, because that’s been a bit part of how we’ve managed to combine the best of both worlds at Musical U – the free, creative spirit of improvisation – which is fun but can feel like a wilderness and be hard to improve in – and the strict, rule-based approach – which makes it easy to learn but is ultimately very limiting. There is a middle ground which lets you learn it step by step without limiting your creativity, and Andrew’s ideas developed while sometimes literally “sitting on a rock” have formed a big part of how we share that with our members at Musical U.

After four years of touring with the reggae band Satta Andrew was conscious of his desire for more formal music education. He’d found it frustrating not being able to communicate his musical ideas, and he found his way to the New England Conservatory.

There he studied in the Third Stream program set up to intermingle the worlds of classical and jazz music. Studying under George Russell he discovered the Lydian Chromatic Concept which gave him a new understanding of scales and harmony, influencing both his melody playing on flute and later his piano teaching.

From the background Andrew had had before the conservatory and the fact that the masters program he did was specifically about exploring and combining a variety of musical styles, it would be easy to assume he would go on to explore lots of different things after leaving the conservatory. But in fact he connected deeply with the traditional Jewish style of music called Klezmer and spent fifteen years really devoting himself to studying it, performing it, composing it – and pioneering lots of new technique required to bring the flute back into the tradition of Klezmer music. It was great to hear Andrew’s demonstrations both of the musical flourishes characteristic of Klezmer and one of his own compositions, a spiritually inspired piece “Between Heaven and Earth”.

After going wide across instruments and styles he went deep into Klezmer, and eventually emerged again, going wide through his piano teaching and performing with other groups. It was fascinating to hear how he found a different relationship with the piano and his own way of teaching his students, taking advantage of the kinesthetic, the feel of notes and chords under your fingers, as well as a more ear-led approach, tailored to each student’s particular needs and interests and finding ways to equip them with a versatile and creative understanding of their instrument.

There was one observation Andrew made about his time at the New England Conservatory: that when he arrived he felt really out of place among all the amazing musicians – but gradually realised that everyone there was intimidated by everyone else! This is really a big theme to Andrew’s story, I think: that things which from the outside seem effortless and inspiring and intimidating – actually have taken the musician a lot of thought, practice and personal development to achieve. Even when I asked Andrew about whether he felt he’d “made it” as a musician, his hesitation and his answer made clear what he’d said at the beginning: that learning music is a journey without end. And he feels he is continually learning and improving. At the same time it’s clear that from the outside anyone would consider him a very capable, accomplished and impressive musician.

We often talk here on the podcast about “talent” in music and I love to unpack the true story behind musicians you might assume just had a natural gift. Andrew’s story is a beautiful example of this, and I absolutely loved his description towards the end of our conversation about tapping into the “magic” of music making. How after the years and decades of learning and exploring and performing and creating music, he feels like he’s internalised that sense of what to play and how. And it’s not about mastery of a specific instrument or genre – though he said that going so deep into Klezmer music probably played a part. It’s about developing what I think we can safely call the “instinct” for music. Something that society tells us we must be born with – but as Andrew’s example, along with countless previous guests on this show demonstrate, is absolutely a learnable skill.

As you’d probably expect given his journey, Andrew is still busy in a variety of musical projects, and although we’re fortunate enough to have him as part of our team at Musical U he’s also playing regularly with his Mariachi group “Mariachi Flor de Missouri”, other world music groups under the banner name HeartWinds, and teaches privately and online. We’ll have links to all those projects as well as Andrew’s own site where you can enquire about lessons if you’re interested, in the shownotes for this episode at

I’ve loved getting to know Andrew over the last couple of years, but as you can probably tell from this conversation, he’s a man who has an endless supply of experience, stories and wisdom to share, so I really enjoyed having this opportunity to learn more about his story and I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I did.

Thanks for joining me for this episode! Stay tuned for our next one, where I’m going to invite Andrew to come back and share a bit about that Lydian Chromatic Concept he mentioned, and what gravity has to do with understanding music by ear.

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