An American virtuoso pianist and composer, Yvar Mikhashoff is best known for his performance of contemporary classical music. Mikhashoff was considered one of the leading performers of contemporary piano music of his day. He worked closely with composers all over the world, including leading figures like John Cage, Morton Feldman, Giacinto Scelsi, Per Nørgård, Poul Ruders, and numerous others.
Yvar-Emilian Mikhashoff was born Ronald MacKay in Troy near Albany, New York in 1941. He began piano studies with Betty Weir and Stanley Hummel in Albany. At the Eastman School of Music in 1959, he first took a major in composition and cello, then changed to piano studies with Armand Basile. In the 1961 academic year, he studied piano at the Juilliard School in New York City. He also had a career as a ballroom dancer from 1962-1965.
In 1964 Mikhashoff entered the University of Houston for studies in piano with Albert Hirsh. He earned a B.M. in 1967 and continued with graduate study in composition with Elmer Schoettle and obtained his M.M. in 1968. It was during this period that MacKay adopted his grandfather's name, Mikhashoff.
Receiving a Fulbright scholarship, Mikhashoff studied the music of the French Impressionists with Nadia Boulanger. After his return to the United States, Mikhashoff entered the University of Texas at Austin as a doctoral candidate in composition and studied with Hunter Johnson, Kent Kennan, Janet McGaughey and Karl Korte. He earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree with a major in composition and a minor in literature in August 1973 and founded the Cambiata Soloists ensemble. In the Fall of 1973 Mikhashoff was appointed Assistant Professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Based in Buffalo until his death in 1993, Mikhashoff had an international performing career which led him to promote new music and American music around the world.