'I believe that young musicians can stay in Israel and play music at home just as they do it now abroad," says young Israeli pianist Michal Solomon, who performs Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto with the Campus Orchestra under Talia Ilan on December 3 at the Levin Music Center in Jaffa. "From early childhood I dreamed of playing the piano, probably because of its rich sound, but at first my parents could not afford it and offered me alternative instruments," says the Israeli born Solomon, who studied piano with private tutors from the age of eight. Solomon later moved with her family to New York, where she picked up her musical education anew with Dr. Donald Pirone. During her high school years at the La-Guardia High School for the Performing Arts in New York she took part in many competitions all around the US, including the international piano competition in Oberlin, Ohio. She won the first prize in the Brooklyn Council of Arts competition. In New York Solomon performed as a soloist with a number of orchestras. "The education there was simply excellent; I studied everything - piano, chamber music, theory. As a hobby I played violin, and it went so far that my teachers asked me to make my choice. I could not stop playing piano, so I gave up violin," she recollects, confiding that she still played the string instrument as a member of the Jerusalem University Orchestra. "I had a wonderful life in the US, but I decided to complete my army service in Israel and returned home, for a couple of years - so I thought." Although she could have received the status of "exceptional musician," which gives gifted teens the option of continuing with their music studies, Solomon decided to "be like everybody else" and went through the general training course, eventually landing at the Army's press service; that was where her other love, that of photography, began. "In the beginning I did not realize how much I missed Israel. With all due respect, I never felt truly at home in America; the openness and spontaneity, which are so characteristic of Israelis, were lacking for me." Upon her release from the Army, Solomon entered Tel Aviv University, where she studied music under the tutelage of Prof. Yonatan Zak. NOWADAYS SOLOMON performs a lot of chamber music throughout the country, working with opera singers and teaching at the Yoram Levinstein theater studio, where she participates in theater productions and musicals. She also appears abroad. "The Seychelles Classical Music Festival is probably my favorite music event; the atmosphere there is very special," she smiles. "As you know, the Seychelles are situated in the tropics, and music there sounds different. Some of the concerts took place in Kenia, and for me it was a very unusual experience," adds Solomon, who is also a passionate traveler. "I appeared there with a solo recital back in 2004 and it seems that they liked me - they keep inviting me time and again!" Lately, Solomon performed Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto at St. John's, Smith Square, which is situated in the heart of Westminster and is regarded as one of London's finest concert venues, winning the recognition of both audience and critics. With everyone around her dreaming of a major career Solomon prefers to stay focused on her craft. "When you are very young," she says, "you believe that in order to advance you just need to play well; later you realize that nothing happens by itself. Of course I would like to perform more, and I believe it will happen one day, but what I really want is to just to play music together with other people, to delve into it as deeply as I can and to reveal new aspects of it." Michal Solomon plays Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto with the Campus Orchestra at the Levin Music Center, Rehov She'erit Israel 11, Jaffa. The program also features pieces by Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Shostakovich and Khachaturian. For reservations call (050) 622-0435.