Some performers are not only great interpreters, but also inspire composers to go in a direction they may not have otherwise considered. Mikhashoff was one of those performers, who through his enthusiasm for new music and his innovative undertakings, such as the Tango Project and the Waltz Project, advanced musical thought.
Mikhashoff studied at the Eastman and Juilliard schools, received his bachelor of music (1967) and master of music (1968) degrees from the University of Houston, and his doctorate in composition from the University of Texas in 1972. Among his other teachers, he studied piano and composition with Nadia Boulanger.
He was professor of music at the University at Buffalo from 1973 until his death, associate director of the Almeida Festival in London, artistic advisor to the Music Factory in Bergen/Norway, and co-founder/artistic director of the North American New Music Festival. He also conducted seminars in contemporary music at the Royal Conservatory in Copenhagen, the Swedish Academy of Music, and at the Institute for Contemporary Arts in London.
Composers who wrote for him included John Cage, Lukas Foss, Christian Wolff, Henry Brant, Sylvano Bussotti, Per Norgaard, "Blue" Gene Tyranny, Luis de Pablo, and Conlon Nancarrow. Over 100 composers wrote three-minute tangos for his International Tango Collection. He received the Arts Council of Great Britain Performance Award in 1983, and the Austrian government awarded him the Arbeiterkammerpreis in 1989. He also received Fulbright scholarships for study in Denmark and Argentina.
Among his own compositions are the Dances for Davia (1980), The Pipes of Colchis (1983), Tiento, and The Long Eyes of Earth.
Mikhashoff performed at many of the world's leading music festivals, including the Warsaw Autumn Festival, Zagreb Biennale, Holland Festival, Ars Musica/Brussels, Numus Festival/Denmark, Huddersfield Festival/England, Music Nova/Brazil, and Pan Music Festival/Korea. He also appeared as piano soloist with major orchestras in the United States, South America, and Europe.
Mikhashoff was very active as a recording artist, with releases on the Nonesuch, CRI, Mode, Spectrum, Paula, EMI, and New Albion labels. He recorded for every major broadcast center in Europe as well as for Radio Hong Kong and NHK/Tokyo.