2003 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

Reasons to Believe logo

Role models who give us Reasons to Believe in the power of education

Erik Nielsen

Sumner Academy of the Arts & Science — Class of 1995Erik Nielsen

Flute, clarinet, saxophone, or trumpet. Learning to play one of these "normal instruments" in the fifth grade did not interest Erik Nielsen, so his band director, Mr. Corwin Elliott, suggested the oboe. This moment of decision was a life-changing event for Erik, and from that point on, his life would be anything but "normal," as he always searched for things to do that were out of the ordinary.

While attending the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools, Erik honed his skills in composing, playing the harp, piano, and oboe, and conducting. Despite the many awards and recognition Erik received, he always remained polite, modest, gentle, and kind to others.

He acknowledges he was very lucky to have support from teachers who were generous with their time and inspired him to learn, as well as being offered unique opportunities from KCKPS. Erik notes he acquired strong analytical skills through his AP English course and science classes. This skill is integral to his career today.

My work as a conductor and coach requires me to learn opera music quickly," said Erik. "The shortest operas I learn are 350 pages long. I have to be able to learn music quickly, understand foreign languages, listen to the singers, and, of course, play the right notes. The most important trait, allowing me to have enough concentration left in order to 'make music' spontaneously and creatively, is the ability to assemble the music in my mind through analysis."

After his many successes during his education at KCKPS, he earned a bachelor's degree in harp and oboe at The Juilliard School in New York. He continued his education by earning a degree in conducting from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. In 2002, he moved to Germany and became a harpist in the Berlin Philharmonic in Berlin, Germany, one of the world's greatest orchestras. He is currently a coach for the Frankfurt Opera in Frankfurt, Germany.

Erik's career path exemplifies his advice to students. "Never accept boundaries that society places on you, learn as many languages as you can, and recognize the most interesting places in the world are those where you have never been."

Nielsen currently resides in Frankfurt with Matthias Pintscher, a successful composer and their eight-month-old puppy, Twombly, named after Cy Twombly, an American painter.