Hamlisch was born in New York City to Viennese Jewish parents. His was a musical family with his father being an accordionist and bandleader. Marvin Hamlisch was something of a child prodigy and by age five he began mimicking music he heard on the radio on the piano. A few months before he turned seven, in 1951, he became the youngest person ever accepted to the Juilliard School. However anxiety issues kept him from pursuing a career as a concert pianist leading him to instead focus on composition, specifically for film and theater.