In celebration of 91Classical’s Local Composers Month, we posed six questions to some of Nashville’s classical music creators. This week, get to know a little more about Nicole Neely, who, as the owner of StringsChick Music Company, is really an all-around musician: she works as a composer, arranger, instrumentalist, and conductor.
How would you describe your compositional style?
It’s really hard to pinpoint my compositional style but I would say, contemporary classical. Because of my diverse upbringing, you can hear elements of gospel, soul, and jazz in my approach rhythmically and harmonically.
What do you love about being a composer in Nashville?
Nashville facilitates the creative process because of its industry and artistic landscape. So many of my colleagues do what I do and well! It’s great to be around well-rounded and experienced musicians, fortifying my personal skill set. You are forever learning and experimenting.
Can you tell us a little bit about something you’ve recently composed, or a project you’re working on now?
I recently worked with Quaver Music, a Nashville-based music group dedicated to creating General Music education content for children. This wasn’t my typical gig. It was very much like writing for a musical. Otto Gross, one of their genius creators, had me to orchestrate his music ideas, while giving me creative license to expand on my arrangement. It was so enjoyable and a nice deviation from the norm.
Which composer do you wish was better known?
Florence Price. She was the first African American woman to have her music performed by a major symphony orchestra in 1933. Being an African American woman myself, what she represents is so important to me and not just African American history but American history as well. She was and still is a force to be reckoned with and shows excellence and the diversity of gifting throughout the black community.
This year we’ve not only been experiencing a global pandemic, but also widespread protests against racial injustice. How have the events of 2020 so far influenced your work as a composer?
I can’t say that it has influenced my written works. This is not new to the black community and does not take us by surprise. We have always been a strong and resilient people in the face of adversity. Personally, I occupy a very unique lane within the industry. As a black woman, my demographic is the most underrepresented. This time in history is a reminder of my responsibility to educate, to set the record straight, and use my influence to pave the way, however I can. I’m pretty sure that’s already begun.
You have experience not only as a composer, but also as an arranger, conductor, and performer. Do you have a role in music that you enjoy most?
I enjoy everything about my gift. They are play a part in how I approach music and the role for that specific gig. I refer to all the disciplines. Those sensibilities never shut down.
Bonus: What advice would you give a beginner composer/arranger?
Practice writing. Listen to all kinds of music. Study your own discipline as well as other disciplines. Create your own style and approach. Surround yourself with people of like- mindedness. And please don’t feel like you have to compete with anyone. Appreciate your gift for what it is.