Discovery drives Christopher Nichols’ daily life as an artist-teacher of the clarinet. The literature for his instrument includes works dating from its infancy in the Baroque period to the present day. Rediscovered and new compositions arrive daily.
His study of the diverse body of literature, Nichols says, is critical to his work, both as a performer and educator.
And to think, before the “happy accident” at age 8 of finding his voice with the clarinet, Nichols wanted to play the saxophone. (Ultimately, he took four years of sax lessons during college – it was a practical move meant to diversify his skills.)
He’s an assistant professor of clarinet at the University of Delaware, where he performs in the Del’Arte Quintet and teaches applied clarinet and clarinet chamber music. His continued study of the literature has inspired a class project each semester: each member of the studio researches and selects a different piece of literature that interests him or her from an assigned focus, such as the Italian opera paraphrase, the French solo de concours or jazz-inspired compositions of the 20th century.
As a performer, the collaborative effort that is necessary to prepare a program, he finds, is among the most rewarding aspects.
“In our rehearsals, we make new discoveries from trying each other’s ideas to create a unified approach to interpreting each work,” says Nichols, 33. “When presenting multiple performances of the same works, the interpretation changes each time with subtle nuances and variations.”
This year, Nichols is working toward recording his debut solo CD, which will include literature commonly prescribed for Delaware Music Educators Association All-State clarinet auditions.
“As a recent transfer to Delaware from Nebraska by way of Kansas – and I’m a native of Pennsylvania – I just noticed Delaware music education isn’t in its greatest state,” he says. “There are all these young clarinetists, and they’re really wonderful, and they take these All-State Band auditions, and the ability level kind of varies. So, one of my projects is just to improve the state of clarinet playing in Delaware.”
“I’m hoping this recording is somewhat of an inspiration or a reference for students of the instrument here in Delaware and will assist in our music department’s recruitment effort.”
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