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Michael Nicolella

Michael Nicolella

  • Sku MN

With a repertoire spanning from J.S. Bach to Jimi Hendrix, Michael Nicolella is recognized as one of America's most innovative classical guitar virtuosos. He has received wide critical acclaim for his performances, recordings and compositions. As a concert artist, Michael has performed throughout North America and Europe as solo recitalist, chamber musician and soloist with orchestra. 

A uniquely eclectic and versatile artist, Michael blurs the lines between musical styles and disciplines. He is part of a growing trend in classical music to revitalize the role of the composer/performer. As a concert artist he frequently programs his own works for guitar in solo recital and chamber music settings.

Known for his creative programming, Michael has introduced electric guitar into his "classical" programs and extended the repertoire and audience of his instrument not only with his own compositions and transcriptions, but also by premiering and commissioning works by some of today's most exciting emerging composers. In the last five years alone, he has premiered over a dozen new works for classical and electric guitar in solo, chamber and orchestral settings. In reference to his abilities on the classical and electric guitar, noted guitar composer, scholar and critic John Duarte stated in a recent issue of "Gramophone" magazine that:"Others have 'crossed the track' in one direction or the other but none has done so with the technical and/or musical success as Nicolella, who,chameleon-like, achieves comparable distinction in both fields".

Michael has performed with the Seattle Symphony, Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Seattle Creative Orchestra, odeonquartet, Charanga Danzon, Ensemble Sospeso, Seattle Guitar Trio, Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, Seattle Choral Company, and the Northwest Symphony Orchestra.

His newest CD Ten Years Passed features the title track, his composition for electric guitar and orchestra, performed with the Northwest Symphony Orchestra led by conductor Anthony Spain, along with music of Henze, Beaser, ter Veldhuis, Wallace, Vazquez, Crane and Lennon/McCartney. The album of contemporary music for classical and electric guitar is the stylistic follow up to Nicolella's critically aclaimed CDs: Shard and Push. Shard was described in Frets magazine as "an exciting textbook on how to honor classical tradition and kick it in the ass at the same time.  In Gramophone John Duarte called Push "a display of stunning technical skill and unfailing musicality over a very broad spectrum" while Classical Guitar magazine described the disc as "remarkable... breathtaking... superb" and characterized Nicolella as "a fully enlightened musician of our time." Composer John Fitz Rogers's epic, Transit, for electric guitar and computer-driven virtual ensemble, with Nicolella as soloist, was released on CD in April 2002 reaching into the top 10 best-selling classical CDs on Following Transit's first New York performance, New York Times classical music critic Anne Midgette declared Transit "an impassioned, intense manifesto that used the guitar and a wide palette of electronic sounds to comment on, it seemed, the whole of music history... expertly played by Michael Nicolella."

In February 2011, his most recent piece "Seeking, Searching and Hunting" was premiered by the Oberon Guitar Trio at the University of Calgary. In April 2009 his work "La Vals Eterna" for classical guitar ensemble was premiered at the Schwob School of Music, Columbus State University, as part of a composer in residency with the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians with subsequent performance in Victoria, BC, Canada and Calgary, Canada. In November, 2008 his arrangement of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring pt.1" was premiered by the Seattle Guitar Trio. In 2006-2007, Michael was composer in residence with the Northwest Symphony Orchestra, which culminated in the 2007 premiere of "Ten Years Passed" for electric guitar and orchestra. Other recent premiers include: "Prelude" premiered by Nicolella in 2010 at PONCHO Recital Hall/Cornish College. "Toccata and Fugue" for solo classical guitar - premiered by Michael Partington and "Guitar Concerto" for classical guitar and orchestra - premiered by the Seattle Creative Orchestra with Nicolella as soloist, both at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. Michael is currently working on an orchestral commission for the Northwest Symphony Orchestra to be premiered in April 2012.

As a performer and composer, Michael has received awards, grants, commissions and fellowships from ASCAP, the American Composers Forum, 4Culture, Wisconsin Arts Board, Washington State Arts Commission, King County Office of Cultural Resources, Seattle Arts Commission and was first prize winner of both the Portland and Northwest solo classical guitar competitions.

Michael's education ranges from undergraduate studies at Berklee College of Music, where he studied improvisation with jazz greats Gary Burton and Billy Pierce, to Yale University where he received his Master of Music degree, to post-graduate studies at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy, as a scholarship student of Oscar Ghiglia. At Yale, he was awarded the George Knight Houpt Memorial Scholarship as a student of Benjamin Verdery and studied composition with Martin Bresnick and Jonathan Berger. His early teachers included Vincent Fraioli, Wayne Clifton and Mark Campellone. Michael currently resides in Seattle where he is on the faculty of Cornish College of the Arts.

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