Isaac ben Ayala was born in 1969 in the borough of Manhattan, New York City. As a youngster, his family moved around New York City, residing in Manhattan and The Bronx. Ultimately, his father settled into an apartment in Brooklyn.
He attended South Shore H.S. (Brooklyn, NY), graduating in the top 1% of his class. He was President of the Music Honor Society and Editor-In-Chief of The Grand Staff (a quarterly musical publication). Upon winning a school-wide contest to write an Alma Mater for the High School, Isaac served as conductor of the premiere of his South Shore Anthem, scored for full orchestra and chorus, along with a full program of music, (including a performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue which Isaac conducted from the piano) for his graduation ceremony in 1987.
After graduating 13th in a class of 635 with awards from the Arista, Archon honors societies and scholarships from United Federation of Teachers, B’nai Brith Manikoff Award, Knights of Columbus and Knights of Pythias Scholarships.
College, Music School and more College
While in elementary school Isaac attended The Mannes School Preparatory Division, studying both piano and composition with Ms. Roberta Kosse as well as attending classes in music theory. While at Mannes, Isaac showed a love and respect for early music, practicing Bach and Handel on the harpsichords under the supervision of the school’s beloved, late President and mentor Dr. Charles Kaufman.
Early in High School, Ayala also attended The Brooklyn Preparatory Center at Brooklyn College. In his sophomore year of High School he was accepted to The Juilliard School Preparatory Division. Unfortunately, due to insufficient scholarship awarded him, Isaac was forced to leave the program. However,The Hebrew Arts School did Isaac up, hiring some of the same teachers to which he was assigned from Juilliard (including his composition teacher Mr. Eric Ewazen). While at The Hebrew Arts School, Isaac double majored in Piano and Composition.
While in High School, Isaac participated in The College Enrichment Program, allowing him to attend The Brooklyn College of The City University of New York, taking accredited courses in composition, music theory, private piano instruction and two semesters of Classical Music History. He passed all of the courses, although, upon his entrance to The Oberlin Conservatory of Music, none of the courses were transferred and he was required to take them all over again, this time at Oberlin.
After being accepted to all of the music schools to which he applied, Ayala chose The Conservatory of Music at Oberlin College, mostly because of its World Renowned Early Music Program. He entered the college with a Double Major in Composition and Piano, but soon got drawn into the Early Music Program, performing in Master Classes with Anner Bylsma and Nigel North. He also became quite involved in the Jazz Department under the guidance of it’s department head Dr. Wendell Logan. Isaac performed in many small Jazz Ensembles as well as The Oberlin Jazz Big Band, playing in many master classes, including Ray Brown, Joe Henderson, Barry Harris and Richard Davis, among others. Ultimately, The Oberlin Conservatory at Oberlin College granted Isaac a Bachelors of Music with a Major in Early Music on the Harpsichord and a Double Minor in Classical Piano and Composition.
For the next two years following his graduation from Oberlin College, Isaac ben Ayala stayed in the town of Oberlin, OH, working professionally as a pianist mostly in Cleveland, OH, in Cuyahoga County, but also in the surrounding counties of Lorain, in Toledo and even once or twice in Youngstown, OH.