The American violinist, Michelle Makarski, described her birthplace as "the far western Upper Peninsula of Michigan on Lake Superior," although she spent most of her childhood days growing up in Detroit, at the opposite corner of the state. Her father was a musician and began teaching her, but soon graduated her to other teachers, including Mischa Mischakoff, concertmaster of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra who had also been Arturo Toscanini's concertmaster. She took high school at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. She studied at the University of Michigan with Paul Makanowitzky, and in Europe with Nathan Milstein. She credits her studies with three very powerful but different personalities with having established a foundation.
Michelle Makarski found herself playing music of American composers. She entered the Carnegie International American Music Competition, so that she could have more of an opportunity to give a venue to the American composers whose works she was playing: Samuel Barber, Steven Hartke, Wallingford Rieger, William Bolcom, and William Schuman. She won the competition in 1989, and immediately got an opportunity to play the S. Barber concerto widely, as well as the other works, getting a reputation as an American music specialist. In fact, she denies any intention to specialize in any era, style, or nationality of music, and when she began taking an interest in Baroque and pre-Baroque violin music, quickly explained that she was not trying to become a period performance specialist--"I'm simply trying to play the repertoire I choose to play." She is also winner of the Alberto Curci Competition in Naples, and took the Beethoven Sonata Prize at the Carl Flesch Competition in London.
Michelle Makarski has an international reputation for the newest in American and international music, although her repertoire is broad and includes music of all periods, starting from the Baroque period. She is an strong and imaginative improviser, whether the style is Baroque ornamentation or jazz. She has appeared as recitalist and concerto soloist at Carnegie Hall and the Barbican Arts Centre in London, with the American Symphony Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Scarlatti Orchestra of the RAI in Italy, Istanbul State Symphony, and Münchener Kammerorchester, with conductors including Jiri Behlolavek, Carl St. Clair, Daniele Gatti and Sir Charles Grove as well as at festivals including Klangspuren (Austria), Aterforum (Italy), Jazz Baltica (Germany), Cheltenhem, Huddersfield (UK), Marlboro and Tanglewood (USA). She has also appeared with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and The Hilliard Ensemble.
Michelle Makarski has also appeared in the Lincoln Center Great Performers Series, including an important performance with Keith Jarrett. This led to her being asked by Manfred Eicher, the head of Keith Jarrett's record label ECM, to record with him and, subsequently, on her own. ECM, one of the world's leading labels devoted to avant-garde classical and jazz music, has released her playing in Jarrett's "Bridge of Light" album, her own solo album "Caoine" (pronounced "keen" and meaning a keen or wailing), a jazz album called "From the Green Hill" with trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, and another solo CD, "Elogio per un ombra." She has also recorded Stephen Hartke's Violin Concerto "Auld Swaara", dedicated to her (New World Records) and Tituli for violin, percussion and the Hilliard Ensemble (ECM); and an album of American works with pianist Brent McMunn on the New World label. Her recent solo album, “To be sung on the water”, with unaccompanied works of Giuseppe Tartini and American composer Donald Crockett, is heralded in the international press as "A conceptual and artistic triumph" (The Strad).
Michelle Makarski has performed in duo with pianist-improviser Marilyn Crispell and has toured with jazz musicians Thomasz Stanko, Dino Saluzzi, John Surman, Anders Jormin and Jon Christensen as part of their 2000 Deutsche Schallplatten Kritik - winning project on ECM Records, From the Green Hill. Reviewing her Carnegie Hall recital debut, Andrew Porter in The New Yorker said "Miss Makarski seemed herself to become the singer, uttering the lines almost as if she were composing them..." and Leighton Kerner of the Village Voice: "Makarski spat, frolicked and wailed to a fare-thee-well." BBC Music Magazine's "Who's Who in Music" lists her amongst the most important contemporary violinists.
Michelle Makarski has been profiled on NBC-TV's Real Life with Jane Pauley and on the European TV documentary program Music Hotel, the latter concerning the ECM label's New Series Musiktage in Germany. She has also been featured in broadcasts, television and film including BBC, CBC, Bayern 1, and RAI.
Michelle Makarski teaches master-classes widely, including the Interlochen Arts Academy, the North Carolina School of the Arts, the University of Michigan, Oberlin Conservatory, Mainz University in Germany, the Detmold, Germany Hochschule für Musik and the Lucerne Conservatory in Switzerland. She is a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique and brings those skills to her teaching and to master-classes and workshops she offers in the USA and abroad.