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Yo-Yo Ma, score in hand, discussing a piece with a young woman holding a violin

© PETE CHECCHIA

Music Education
Artistic Director and cellist Yo-Yo Ma talks with a student participant in a "Tradition and Innovation" workshop at Tanglewood Music Center. The Silk Road Project is committed to working with talented young musicians.


Nicholas Cords

COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

"Being exposed to other cultures has made me a more empathetic and flexible musician. Rather than seeing the Western classical tradition as the center of the world (as was part of my training), I am better able to see music from other cultural perspectives and to appreciate the shared values of music making."

– NICHOLAS CORDS


Nicholas Cords

Viola (United States) Violist Nicholas Cords is strongly committed to the advocacy and performance of music from a very broad historic and geographical spectrum. His busy touring schedule has led him in recent years to Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw, the Cologne Philharmonie, and the Library of Congress. As a soloist, he has appeared with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the New York String Seminar Orchestra. Recent highlights include performances at the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg, in works ranging from Feldman to Wuorinen, and the Vail International Dance Festival, where he performed Stravinsky's Élegie for solo viola in a late Balanchine choreography (dormant for the past thirty years) with the great Brazilian ballerina Carla Körbes. His debut solo album, Recursions (2013- In a Circle Records), features works ranging from Biber to Hindemith to Cords' recently composed "Five Migrations."

Mr. Cords is a regular member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, a musical collective that uses the historic Silk Road trading route as a metaphor for musical exchange and creativity in the present. The group has not only traveled to many of the major musical centers of the United States and Europe, but also to China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, India, Egypt, Iran, Syria and a number of the Central Asian Republics. In addition to performing with the ensemble, Mr. Cords has taken a role in the organization and development of new creative projects, programming for concerts and museum residencies, and as an active part of two long-term residencies with the group; one at the Rhode Island School of Design and one at Harvard University. He appears on all four of the ensemble’s albums; Silk Road Journeys: When Strangers Meet, Beyond the Horizon, New Impossibilites and Off the Map.

Mr. Cords is also a founding member of Brooklyn Rider, an intrepid string quartet which NPR credits with "recreating the 300-year-old form of string quartet as a vital and creative 21st-century ensemble." The group has collaborated with composers all over the globe, as well as with Irish fiddler Martin Hayes, Persian kemancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor, Japanese shakuhachi player Kojiro Umezaki, banjo phenomenon Béla Fleck, and songstress Suzanne Vega, to name a few. Equally at home in concert halls and clubs, Brooklyn Rider was the only classical group invited to play in the 2010 South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. This season sees the group touring in North America and Asia, along with premieres of works by John Zorn, Bill Frisell, Vijay Iyer, Padma Newsome, Greg Saunier, and more. Their recordings, Silent City, Passport, Dominant Curve, Brooklyn Rider Plays Philip Glass, and Seven Steps, have received wide critical acclaim from sources ranging from Gramophone Magazine to Pitchfork. Their upcoming album, A Walking Fire, will be released by the Mercury Classics label (Universal Music) in late April 2013.

Mr. Cords has appeared frequently on television and radio including a Chinese National Television broadcast from the Great Wall, the David Letterman Show, numerous National Public Radio broadcasts, Good Morning America, NHK Japan, and a four year run as resident commentator and performer on WQXR New York’s Radio weekly On A-I-R. Mr. Cords is an active member of many ensembles, including the Caramoor Virtuousi, An Die Musik, The Knights, and the Metropolitan Museum Artists in Concert.

Mr. Cords began his musical education at the Juilliard School where he won top honors in the viola competition and subsequently gave the New York premiere of John Harbison’s Viola Concerto at Avery Fisher Hall. He completed his studies at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. His teachers have included Karen Tuttle, Harvey Shapiro, Joseph Fuchs, and Felix Galamir. 

A committed teacher, Mr. Cords currently teaches at Stony Brook University in New York. He spends part of his summer schedule teaching at the Bennington Chamber Music and Composers Conference and served for eight years as viola instructor at Princeton University. He has twice participated as a mentor along with other members of the Silk Road Ensemble in the Weill Institute Professional Training Workshops at Carnegie Hall and has also delivered a series of teacher workshops for the New York City Department of Education on music and the role of it can play in cross-cultural understanding. 

He recently presented a talk at the American Association of Museums National Conference on the role of music in a museum setting. He is a regular contributor to NPR’s classical music blog Deceptive Cadence. Mr. Cords plays on an instrument made for him in 2008 by famed Brooklyn maker Samuel Zygmuntowicz.