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Oregon Symphony Musician Bio

Niel DePonte

Principal Percussion

Niel DePonte is the Principal Percussionist of the Oregon Symphony, a post to which he was appointed in 1977 at the age of 24. He has appeared with the Oregon Symphony numerous times as a marimba soloist, playing a varied repertoire including his own composition, Concertino for Marimba and Orchestra. He has also appeared as a soloist with the Colorado Springs and Walla Walla (Wash.) symphonies, and he appears regularly as solo percussionist for Chamber Music Northwest. He was a 2004 Grammy Award nominee in the category of Best Instrumental Soloist Performance with Orchestra for his performance of the Concerto for Marimba by Tomas Svoboda, with James DePreist and the Oregon Symphony on Albany Records.

Niel is an artist/clinician for the Yamaha Corporation and performs on a Yamaha concert marimba. His principal teachers and influences have been Fred Hinger, formerly Principal Timpanist of the Metropolitan Opera and Philadelphia Orchestras; John Beck, formerly Principal Timpanist, The Rochester Philharmonic; Bill Cahn, formerly Principal Percussionist of The Rochester Philharmonic and a member of the Nexus Percussion Group; and Leigh Stevens, marimba virtuoso. Niel was born in New York City and received his training at the Eastman School of Music where he earned a Master of Music degree and the Performer’s Certificate. He also holds a degree in education from the State University of New York College at Fredonia, where he studied percussion with Theodore Frazeur.

When not performing as a percussion soloist or member of the Oregon Symphony, Niel continues to establish himself as one of his generation's most versatile conductors. He is the Music Director and Conductor for Oregon Ballet Theatre and has appeared as guest conductor with the symphonies of Oregon, Syracuse, Spokane, Charlotte, Anchorage, Tulsa, Dayton, and the San Francisco and Boston Ballet Orchestras. He can be heard on CD conducting Oregon Ballet Theatre's version of The Nutcracker Ballet with the OBT Orchestra and as a percussionist on numerous CDs of Chamber Music Northwest, as well as the Oregon Symphony’s complete discography.

Also a published composer, Niel’s works have been performed by the Oregon Symphony, Eastman Wind Ensemble and other ensembles throughout the United States. He has composed, arranged and edited orchestral scores for use in ballet performance, most recently, a full-length ballet score for Houston Ballet’s 2002 production of Peter Pan. As President of MetroArts Inc, a non-profit arts education organization he founded in 1993, Niel has done considerable research on the use of the arts for teaching cognitive strategies in the classroom. He is the Artistic Director of the Young Artists at the Schnitz Concerto Competition and the MetroArts Kids Camp, where creative thinking processes are taught via music, theater, dance and visual arts to children each summer at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts.

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