“A sound like liquid gold…” (Eleanor Hood – Cameo Concerts) aptly describes the inspiring performances of clarinetist Leslie Nicholas. He has appeared around the globe in opera, orchestra, chamber music and solo roles at venues including Alice Tully Hall of New York’s Lincoln Center and Washington’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Mr. Nicholas has been principal clarinetist with the West Virginia Symphony, New York’s Classic Chamber Orchestra, ProMusica Columbus, the Dallas Chamber Orchestra, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and with the New York Harlem Opera throughout Europe. He has played under world famous conductors Daniel Barenboim, Claudio Abbado and Sir Georg Solti, and has performed with Washington’s National Chamber Players, with the Aspen, Round Top, Grand Teton and Coronado Music Festivals, and with the AIMS Festival in Austria and Italy. Principal clarinetist and Director of the Wintergreen Festival’s Performance Academy, he has also often been featured at the Garth Newel Music Center. With the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival and with the American Prize winning Lancaster Festival, Nicholas has appeared in principal and solo roles for over two decades. He has been a featured artist with the International Clarinet Association, the University of Oklahoma Clarinet Symposium, and with the U.S. Naval Academy Band Quartet. Additionally, Les may be heard in solo roles supporting international recording artist, clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, on his CD, “Ragomania!”
Mr. Nicholas is strongly committed to presenting the finest chamber music, performing with distinguished collaborating artists Jon Kimura Parker, Yolanda Kondonassis, Anton Kuerti, William Preucil, Susan Starr, David Shifrin, Christopher O’Riley, Cary Lewis, the Veronika Quartet of Moscow, Jeremy Wall, and others. As a champion of contemporary music, Nicholas reminds us, “All music was once new!” and his recent premieres include commissions by Gwyneth Walker and Nickitas Demos. His trio d’anches, WindRose, pursued the virtuosic repertoire of the twentieth-century in appearances including the International Conference of The College Music Society in Vienna, and Saint Martin-in-the-Fields, London. Nicholas has recorded and toured internationally with Musica Harmonia, and he performs regularly with the Allegheny Trio. He has also toured as a member of the Pastiche, the Montpellier and the Blair Woodwind Quintets. In early 2013 he returned from a semester abroad, performing with colleagues at the University of Otago, New Zealand’s oldest university. That year also brought an invitation to join the Boston Chamber Players as a last-minute replacement for concerts in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Mr. Nicholas’ first appointment to Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music has led to many years of helping talented young musicians. A nurturing teacher and mentor, he has taught at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and as Woodwind Area Coordinator and Lecturer in Clarinet at Georgia State University. His other positions have included James Madison University, Capital University, Kenyon College, Radford University, and the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria. In 2003 Nicholas joined the faculty of Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, and in 2005 he was named Artist-in-Residence with The Bijou Orchestra, there designing and presenting imaginative music enrichment curriculum for Michigan public schools. In 2014 he was invited to join a select Community Advisory Team for the Kennedy Center’s national education initiative, “Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child.”
Mr. Nicholas’ principal teachers have been members of the San Antonio, Dallas, Cincinnati, Chicago and Cleveland Orchestras; among them Stephen Girko, Ronald deKant, Carmine Campione, Clark Brody, Larry Combs – and most notably the legendary Robert Marcellus, his mentor for many years. He holds performance degrees cum laude from the University of Texas and Northwestern University, with additional study at Southern Methodist University and post-graduate (DMA) study at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music.
Les Nicholas is presently Lecturer in Music at Washington & Lee University, Teaching Artist at the Durham Arts Council School, and on faculty at both, Southern Virginia and Eastern Mennonite Universities. His current projects include new recordings, acoustical improvements to the clarinet, and a new applied music curriculum for youth. When not performing or teaching, Les can usually be found cycling about the Virginia and North Carolina countryside.