LES NICHOLAS, “A sound like liquid gold...” (Eleanor Hood - Cameo Concerts) aptly describes the playing of clarinetist Leslie Nicholas. He has appeared as principal clarinetist from Alice Tully Hall at New York’s Lincoln Center to Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Across Europe he has performed from Oslo to Palermo in opera, orchestra, chamber music and solo roles. Mr. Nicholas has been principal clarinetist of New York’s Classic Chamber Orchestra, the West Virginia Symphony, the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, ProMusica Columbus, the Dallas Chamber Orchestra, Central City Opera and the New York Harlem Opera (Europe).
He has performed with Washington’s National Chamber Players, the Aspen Festival Orchestra, the Round Top Festival Institute, the Grand Teton and Coronado Music Festivals, the AIMS Festival in Austria and Italy, the Garth Newel Music Center, the Wintergreen Festival where he was also director of the Performance Academy, the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival, and with the Lancaster Festival where he has appeared in principal and solo roles for over two decades. He was a recitalist at The International Clarinet Association’s 1992 Clar-Fest International and he appeared as guest soloist with the U.S. Naval Academy Band Quartet in a premiere dedicated to him by composer Nickitas Demos for the 2002 University of Oklahoma Clarinet Symposium.
Les Nicholas devotes much of his time to the performance of chamber music. Notable collaborators have included artists Christopher O’Riley, Jon Kimura Parker, Susan Starr, Anton Kuerti, the Veronika Quartet of Moscow, David Shifrin and Jeremy Wall, among others. As a constant champion of new music, Nicholas has premiered dozens of new works, many written specifically for him and his ensembles. His trio d’anches, WindRose -founded in 1993- continues to perform the virtuosic repertoire of the early twentieth century. The Trio’s performances abroad include appearances in Vienna and at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London. Additionally, Mr. Nicholas has toured as a member of both the Pastiche and the Blair Woodwind Quintets.
A dedicated teacher, as well as performer, his early appointment to Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music has led to nearly twenty years of helping young people through music. Beyond that first post, Mr. Nicholas has served on the applied faculties of Eastern Mennonite University, Capital, Radford and James Madison Universities, at Kenyon College, as chamber music coordinator-coach for The American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria, and as Woodwind Area Coordinator and Visiting Lecturer in Clarinet at Georgia State University in Atlanta. In 2003 Mr. Nicholas joined the summer faculty of the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Michigan. With generous funding from Dow Corning Corporation and others, Mr. Nicholas was named 2006 Artist in Residence with Michigan’s newest chamber orchestra, The Bijou Orchestra. There, his unique collaborations with public school teachers designed performances and workshops fostering imagination, creative writing, and math and science exploration through engagement with fine music.
In August 2007, and again in November 2008, Mr. Nicholas was invited to Brazil, giving concerts and master-classes at the Federal Universities in Joao Pessoa and Natal. More recently, Nicholas may be heard in solo roles supporting recording artist Richard Stoltzman on a new CD of the music of Pulitzer Prize and multiple Grammy award winning composer, William Bolcom, released in the spring, 2009.
Les Nicholas’ principal teachers have included members of the San Antonio, Dallas, Cincinnati, Chicago and Cleveland Orchestras - most notably the legendary Robert Marcellus, his mentor for many years. Mr. Nicholas holds performance degrees cum laude from the University of Texas and Northwestern University, with additional graduate study at Southern Methodist University and post-graduate study at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music.
Mr. Nicholas often appears as a guest artist and clinician. His current projects include recordings, educational publications, and the charmingly eclectic theatre-salon orchestra, The Bijou. When not performing or teaching, he can usually be found cycling about the countryside with his wife, violinist Joan Griffing, and their young son, Breton. www.lesnicholas.com