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Meet Alkis Nicolaides

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alkis Nicolaides.

Alkis, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My mom was always convinced that I was going to become an artist. She saw me imitate people on the TV, perform comedy routines in family gatherings, and give toy-guitar concerts to an imaginary audience on top of the washing machine. I can now proudly say that my mom, just like 93.7% of all moms, was right! I ended becoming a musician.

I am a guitarist, improviser, composer, and educator. I was born in Nicosia, Cyprus (an island in the Mediterranean Sea) which is where I formed my first connections with music.

Funnily, my relationship with music was not always the best. It was my least favorite subject in elementary school because choir rehearsals were always during recess. My teacher was also nagging me into taking after school music lessons because she believed in my potential. The teacher’s continuous efforts paid off and I started guitar lessons at the age of eleven. Following that, music became a passion and priority in my life.

At sixteen I started electric guitar, Jazz-theory, and ear training lessons with my first mentor Yiannos Savides. This period of my life was extremely fruitful in terms of allowing me to explore different musical avenues and build a strong technical and theoretical foundation. These lessons with Yiannos played a critical role in my decision to pursue a career in music. Following my two-year army service, I traveled to the USA and enrolled at Berklee College of Music where I received a B.Mus. in Jazz Composition in 2014. There I studied with amazing artists like Ayn Inserto, Greg Hopkins, Bob Pilkington, Scott Free, Ed Tomassi, and George Garzone. Following my degree, I worked as a freelance artist and in 2016 I moved to Los Angeles to pursue an MFA degree at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts).

My time at CalArts is something that I will cherish forever. CalArts is an extremely special place that does things in its own way and has made a significant contribution to my growth as a person and artist. While in California, I have performed in venues such as the Blue Whale, Troubadour, The World Stage, The Mint, Coaxial Arts Foundation, and Art Share with musicians and ensembles such as the legendary Bennie Maupin, prolific woodwind extraordinaire Vinny Golia, experimental black-doom metal band Blood Oath, rock group ACKLAND, experimental electroacoustic trio Petrichor, and the high energy quartet SCAM.

I loved the environment at CalArts so much that I decided to pursue my doctorate degree there, where I also teach core curriculum and private lessons in performance and composition.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
To be honest, it has mostly been a smooth road. I am extremely fortunate to have a caring and supportive family, loving friends, and inspiring teachers/mentors that have helped through my journey in life. The obstacles and challenges that I have faced, and in some ways still facing, are on an artistic level. The pressure that I put on myself to keep growing as a musician and to continuously produce work, that I perceive as unique and of high quality, can be exhausting at times, but it also acts as a catalyst for my progress.

Can you give our readers some background on your music?
I am a guitarist, improviser, composer, and educator. My music focuses on high-intensity improvisational environments with rhythmic considerations and the integration of technology. My work is a blend of jazz, contemporary classical, experimental music, metal, and rock. With the use of technology, I like to explore the textural possibilities of the guitar and human-computer interactivity. Currently, I am developing an interactive instrument that is inspired by the idea of how to surpass perceived human limitations.

Working on the music for my most recent recital has been an absolute pleasure. I challenged myself to compose for instrumentation that I am not familiar with as well as to create a coherent continuous musical experience. The elements that I tried to tie together in a unified music experience are Regular and Baritone Electric Guitar, Alto Saxophone, Chamber Orchestra comprised of a string section, a brass section, two percussionists, Live Electronics, and not one, but two microwaves.

I was very satisfied with the result and you can check it out using this link: https://ustream.tv/recorded/121369354

I am currently working on some new exciting battle-metal-jazz music for a metal-jazz quartet comprised of Clint Dodson on Drumset, Miller Wrenn on E.Bass, Tom Alvie Wilson on the Roland Aerophone, and myself on E.Guitar.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I love this question. I think about this a lot since it’s a topic that I often discuss with my parents and colleagues. Usually, people expect to hear an answer that involves career and financial stability themes but for me, success is when I am at a state of continuous learning growth. I want to always have something that I can work towards. Being in a University environment allows me to have easy access to this kind of state, but the real test will be once I graduate from the doctorate program. Will I be able to access that headspace? I can’t be sure. The only thing I know is that and I am willing to do anything in my power to never stop growing.

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Image Credit:
Rafael Hernandez, Kyriakos Xristodoulides, Zeynep Yeldan

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