Justin Abrams

Special Music School (2001 to 2005)
Lucy Moses School Young Artist Program

What has your journey looked like since Special Music School?
After Special Music School, I attended The Professional Children’s School while continuing with the Young Artists Program at Lucy Moses School. During high school, leveraging both programs, I was able to maintain a rigorous academic program while also continuing to develop as a cellist – traveling for competitions and concerts, performing with various orchestra and chamber ensembles, and more. From there, I attended McGill University to major in Music, studying with cellist Matt Haimovitz, minoring in economics, and working for Red Bull Canada during my last two years of university. This led to an almost decade-long career in Marketing at Red Bull North America. Red Bull was special in the fact that it encouraged me to continue pursuing music at the highest level.

Since graduating from McGill University’s Conservatory of Music, I have averaged performing 1x/a month, often with my brother, Ramin (a bass player and a fellow graduate of Special Music School). In 2020, I decided to start a company of my own, called Flagship. We are a software company that provides retail brands with a data science platform, helping them unlock millions of dollars of revenue by enriching their first-party data with machine learning algorithms. I am grateful to find time to practice and continue performing, even while running a company, though it has not been easy! To see me perform in an upcoming concert, check out www.theafterartsgroup.com. I will be performing at their Carnegie Hall Showcase on Thursday, May 4th at 7:00 pm.

What did you learn at Special Music School that you still hold with you today?
Reflecting on how unbelievable an opportunity Special Music School was makes me emotional. Special Music School somehow makes the impossible happen – city-funded intimate classroom experiences with the most devoted teachers I have ever known, combined with privately funded music instruction from world-class teachers. Either one of these is a miracle, to begin with... But facilitating both is simply extraordinary. I am forever grateful, and I plan to pay it forward to the best of my ability for generations to come.

Among many lessons, Special Music School most importantly taught me balance. The school seamlessly weaves rigorous music instruction and practice requirements, with intense schooling and hours of homework. None of my classmates were facing burnout and, rather, excelled on both fronts. Of course, to become a professional musician, most students will need to pursue conservatory programs. But Special Music School prepares you for either route.

I cannot imagine a world where I would be able to balance cello on the level I continue to play at, with my career obligations to date, and not while running a tech start-up. Thank you, Special Music School, for making all this possible. I am forever grateful.

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