Bluejay: The reincarnation of Gustav Mahler?

Jay Greenberg bluejay

Another musical prodigy suggests a possible reincarnation of a famous composer with striking facial similarity.

Jay Greenberg

Jay GreenbergBorn in 1991 in New Haven, Connecticut, Jay “Bluejay” Greenberg began playing the cello at age of three, and subsequently taught himself to play the piano.

His first compositions were written at the age of six. His first formal lessons in theory and composition began when he was seven. At the age of ten he enrolled as a scholarship student in New York’s prestigious Juilliard School of Music.

His talent first became known more widely in 2004, when, aged 12, he was featured in a 60 Minutes TV news segment. I am very grateful to the reader who pointed me to this video:

Extraordinary talent

Since that time, Jay has developed a career as a professional composer. Like Mozart, he apparently hears his compositions in his head, already complete, and simply copies them out when he feels ready.

Still a teenager (only just, at the time of writing), he has accomplished more than many composers do in a lifetime. He has written over a hundred pieces, including five symphonies. His Overture to 9/11 received first prize in the composition competition at the Juilliard pre-college division in 2003. His works have been performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony, the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, and many other national and international ensembles.

Jay Greenberg

One of Jay’s teachers at Juilliard is Samuel Zyman [and more on him in a moment]. Zyman states that Jay Greenberg’s talent puts him in the company of music’s most illustrious young prodigies – Mozart, Mendelssohn and Saint-Saëns. “We haven’t seen his like for two hundred years.”

Well, maybe not quite that long. After a bit of research, I wasn’t too surprised to find that young Jay Greenberg is, facially, an exact copy of one of the great classical composers.

Spot the similarity

Below I have included some head-shot comparisons of the two composers. In each case it’s Gustav Mahler on the left and Jay Greenberg on the right. You can click on each image to see an enlargement.

Bear in mind that the pictures of Jay Greenberg so far show him as a spotty teenager, while even the earliest portraits of Mahler show him in his twenties and thirties with receding hair.

It’s fascinating to see how even the spectacles are quite similar – the same was also true of Branwell Bronte and John Lennon.








Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)

Another child prodigy, born in 1860 in a village in Bohemia, Gustav Mahler was playing the piano by age 6. He was accepted into the Vienna Conservatory when he was 15, where he studied piano under Julius Epstein. Just like Jay Greenberg, he composed a number of works before the age of 20 (most now lost).

Although drawn to composing, he pursued a successful career as a conductor, including posts at Kassel, Prague, Budapest, Hamburg, Leipzig, Vienna, and latterly regular visits to New York. To secure the Vienna post, which he held for 10 years at the height of his conducting career, he had to convert from Judaism to Catholicism.

Mahler conducting

While hugely successful as a conductor, composing remained his first love and he continued to do this on a part-time basis. If he has indeed returned as Jay Greenberg, it seems he is making sure to focus on the composing this time round.

Mahler was in the process of composing his tenth symphony when he died.

MahlerMahler’s music found little critical support during his lifetime, and he was regarded mostly as a pretentious failure as a composer for many years after his death. Performances of his music were also banned in much of Europe during the Nazi era. Yet he remained convinced that his “time would come,” and indeed, it has. Thanks to the support and performances of his works by post-War conductors, Mahler is now regarded as the linchpin between the music of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Mahler produced large-scale dramatic works with enormous contrasts in sounds and moods. For many years his complex symphonies had a reputation for being difficult, by virtue not only of their technical demands, but also because of their length and need for considerable resources. I don’t know enough about classical music to make a stylistic comparison with Jay Greenberg, but one critic (Minneapolis Star Tribune September, 2006) has said of Greenberg’s 5th Symphony:

“The finale is noble and exultant in the style of Mahler, but expressed in Greenberg’s own voice.”

PS: Samuel Zyman and Hugo Wolf

While researching possible links between Greenberg and Mahler, I was struck by the similarity between these two individuals.


LEFT: Hugo Wolf, composer, a close friend of Mahler’s in Vienna.
RIGHT: Samuel Zyman, composer, a teacher of Greenberg’s at Juilliard.

Hugo Wolf (1860–1903) was an Austrian composer born in what is now Slovenia. Wolf and Mahler were exact contemporaries (born in the same year), classmates, room-mates, and long-term friends. They had similar backgrounds, were musical prodigies, pursued the same career, and their lives intersected at many key moments. Both arrived in Vienna in 1875 and enrolled at the Conservatoire at the age of 15. Although Wolf was expelled, the two remained close.

After a few years the two went their separate ways as Mahler left Vienna. When Mahler eventually returned in 1897 to take up Vienna’s most prestigious musical post, Director of the Court Opera, Wolf was probably the best known composer in town – but he was already in terminal decline. It is likely that Wolf suffered from what is now known as bipolar disorder. He had several bursts of extraordinary productivity, particularly in 1888 and 1889, but depression frequently interrupted his creative periods. By the time of Mahler’s return to Vienna, Wolf was slipping into syphilitic insanity. After mid-1899 he could make no music at all, and once tried to drown himself.

WolfMahler’s return fired up Wolf’s hopes that his own opera would at last receive a performance. But there was some awkward confusion – Wolf’s hopes were not to be. A heated argument followed, probably the last straw for Wolf’s fragile mental state. Bizarrely, he publicly proclaimed himself the new Director – Mahler’s boss. But not long after, he checked himself into an asylum, where he subsequently died – slowly, miserably – aged just 42.

ZymanSamuel Zyman (b. 1956) has been a member of the Juilliard School faculty since 1987. He was born in Mexico City, where he studied piano and conducting at the National Conservatory of Music and composition with Mexican composer Humberto Hernández Medrano. He also taught medical histology and physiology in the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s School of Medicine. He moved to the United States in 1981 and received MM and DMA degrees in composition from the Juilliard School. As a composer, Zyman draws upon both his Jewish heritage and his Mexican nationality.

Zyman’s unabashed lauding of Jay Greenberg has probably done more than anything else to promote the young prodigy. He wrote in 2003:

“How do you react when you encounter an early compositional gift so extraordinary that you can’t even begin to comprehend it? How do you explain to others a compositional talent so exquisitely developed at such an early age that you can barely believe it yourself? What would you do if you personally met an eight-year-old boy who can compose and fully notate half a movement of a magnificent piano sonata in the style of Beethoven, before your very eyes and without a piano, in less than an hour? How do you let the world know that the same boy, at age 10, composed a probing, original viola concerto in three movements, fully orchestrated, in just a few weeks?”

Perhaps Wolf and Mahler are continuing their earlier relationship in a different way, this time as teacher and pupil rather than as friends and rivals. Whereas Wolf, in a fit of envy, foolishly proclaimed himself to be Mahler’s superior, Zyman is very publicly proclaiming Greenberg’s greater talent.



I have found a number of other similarities from the Vienna music circle now working or studying at the Juillard. More soon.

See also:

Jay Greenberg - Symphony No 5

19 thoughts on “Bluejay: The reincarnation of Gustav Mahler?

  1. I have read in other places that when people reincarnate, they do so in groups, usually comprised of persons they have shared other lives with, and they agree before reincarnating to fulfill particular roles in each other’s reincarnational lives. Of course there is no “proof”, but your discoveries about these musicians are nonetheless fascinating.

    • Yes, the significant people in our lives are very often souls with whom we have teamed up to undergo a variety of relationship experiences with. My son in this life was my husband a couple of centuries ago.

  2. I happened upon your site when a girlfriend emailed me the 60 minutes story about Bluejay, knowing I would be interested because I study flute and my husband is a professional pianist. A Bluejay Google search led me to your site. What my girlfriend didn’t know, or perhaps forgot, is that I have had a lifelong interest in all things “reincarnational”. I’m sure I will spend many hours exploring your site. Thanks so much for bringing together all the interesting and educational content. ;-D

  3. Jay is the reincarnation of Beethoven according to my wife’s Spirit guide. I checked with a living master psychic also…..she said, “Beethoven” before I could even start telling her the whole story.

  4. All three (Jay, Mahler, and Beethoven) could easily be the same soul.
    I just looked up their timelines:
    Beethoven: 1712 – 1773
    Mahler: 1860-1911
    Jay Greenberg: 1991-Present

    Also, wasn’t Beethoven deaf? That would mean most of his musical composition would have to at least have been all in his head, which matches Jay’s compositional style that they mentioned.

    This is all pretty interesting…

  5. Similarity of faces is no evidence of reincarnation. Indeed, there’s an interpretation of Jung’s theories out of Russia called Socionics, in which people have found some evidence that people with similar mental characteristics will share aspects of facial expression too. We tell a lot about what’s inside a person’s mind by the eyes. If they’re similar, perhaps the nature of mind inside is similar too. But this doesn’t mean it’s a continuation of the same person. To think otherwise I think is just part of a sort of mythologizing and deification that people do regarding some musicians whose works has garnered attention.

    • Sorry to contradict you Jonathan, but to say that “similarity of faces is no evidence of reincarnation” is a baseless generalisation. A review of reincarnation cases does frequently reveal a high consistency in facial appearance, even when the race and gender change. So it is more accurate to say that facial similarity is one possible source of evidence for reincarnation.

      In itself, of course, facial similarity can never be regarded as proof of reincarnation, and I am sure you are well aware that evidence is not the same as proof. Facial similarity alone is never sufficient evidence to “prove” a case, even in the sense used by Ian Stevenson. Besides, whenever I present a case I treat it as a hypothesis (a possibility) no matter how much evidence is consistent with it. (Note the question mark in the post title!)

      Facial similarity is simply one kind of evidence that may support the hypothesis that person A is a reincarnation of person B. I always look for other kinds of evidence to see if the hypothesis “has legs” or is merely nothing more than a coincidence, or (as you say) points merely to a similarity in mental character.


    • Well, perhaps my choice of the word “evidence” could be critiqued since “evidence” could mean any facts that might be used in support of any particular viewpoint. The point I was making though is that there’s an alternate and compelling explanation for why facial and mental similarities might coexist. Furthermore, these might have their root in genetic similarities. The problem with the hypothesis of reincarnation is that short of finding that a person had memories of specific events in a former life (without external influence), there really is no way to test whether similarities are due to reincarnation or just coincidentally similar genetics or internal mindset. In either case, one will see a convergence of similar traits, so no matter how many similarities ones finds, one can’t really pin it down.

  6. Jonathan writes: The problem with the hypothesis of reincarnation is that short of finding that a person had memories of specific events in a former life (without external influence), there really is no way to test whether similarities are due to reincarnation or just coincidentally similar genetics or internal mindset.”

    That reservatrion would appear to be successfuly addressed in this review by James Nye of Return To Life: Extraordinary Cases Of Children Who Remember Past Dr Jim Tucker (and in an earlier Tucker book Children Return to Life)

    >The reincarnated children: New book tells the extraordinary story of the children who believe they are a WWII pilot, star golfer and a Hollywood agent from a past life – and have this scientist utterly convinced.

    How could anyone possibly take seriously a three-year-old golfing prodigy’s claim to be legendary 13-time major winner Bobby Jones? Or another boy from Louisiana who recalls being a Second World War pilot shot down over the Pacific?
    A world renowned professor for a start. Dr Jim Tucker’s remarkable experiences with these children, many who can recall intimate details of their past lives in pin-sharp detail – and with no prompting – has led him to the conclusion that reincarnation is real.
    Over the past 10-years, Dr Jim Tucker has traveled the country meeting families and hearing fantastical incredible stories just like these, which he outlines in his new book, Return To Life: Extraordinary Cases Of Children Who Remember Past Lives.<

  7. Interesting, Jay does seem like he could be Mahler. He isn;t Beethoven- he is not reincarnated, being in the spirit world now- quite a few people like Rosemary Brown and John Lill were/are guided by Beethoven, and others have had similar experiences. Quite a few of the composers haven’t been reincarnated such as Schubert, the Schumanns, Liszt and Chopin. Some of these composers also came through the medium Leslie Flint. I am also inclined to think Mozart hasn’t either, though he seems not to have visited Rosemary Brown.
    You might find the below links interesting:

  8. I’m sorry but I do believe you’re mistaken. Greenberg is the reincarnation of Shostakovitch. Not only musically and as a personalty, but in looks as well.. Also Shostakovitch could hear his complete work in his head before writing the whole thing down whereas Mahler undertook painstaking, numerous revisions of his works almost after each performance.

    I know about these things, since I personally am the reincarnation of Hindemith. (Would like to send you my photo + the scores of my two Sinfonia’s – you would see the resemblance is undeniable …)

    Seriously though – if there’s such a physical resemblance, why wouldn’t there be other continuities – the musical style (DEFINITELY not in Mahler’s/Greenberg’s case) and also memories of their past life …

    PS – come over sometime and see my newly constructed train-set sometime – takes up my lounge-room.

    PPS – please somebody can you ask if BlueJay might complete his (former) 10th Symphony for us and end all the angst!!!

    • Hehehe. Shostakovitch – a lot of people think he looks more like Harry Potter.

      Generally, people don’t have past life memories.

  9. Playing devil’s advocate for a second: it looks like all 4 of the individuals here are of Jewish descent. So, yes, on some level, people of the same ethnic group will have similar looks. I am more convinced of the resemblance between Mr. Zyman and Mr. Wolf, though. That one could be possible.

    • I always try to discount similarities based merely on ethnicity (or gender). Individual character tends to override genetic factors by middle age. Consider, for example, Walt Whitnan who is now Alice Walker.

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