You can’t really study rock guitar in college. So Nicholas Omiccioli opted for the traditional classical and jazz curriculum when he enrolled as a composition major at Heidelberg. His career has since taken him on a long and winding road to extraordinary success. Since he graduated in 2006, Nick’s works have been performed worldwide.
Last weekend, Nick returned to his roots as one of the guest composers at Heidelberg’s New Music Spring 2014 festival. While back on campus, he received the Young Alumni Achievement Award from his alma mater.
One of Nick’s mentors at Heidelberg was composition professor Dr. Brian Bevelander. Often, Nick wrote improv pieces and performed them in class. If they showed promise, he took the pieces to the next level by writing more intricate parts for various instruments.
Brian always supported his prized pupil’s improvisations. “He was always very hands-on,” Nick said about his professor. “I’d bring in something I’d written and I’d play it through. He would show me variations and options.”
In addition to in-class and studio instruction, Brian taught Nick how to rehearse a group, helped destinations to send his music and perform outside the university setting. “It really was more like an apprenticeship,” Nick said.
The two have remained close friends to this day. He added: “I came here because I really loved Brian’s music. It was a great opportunity to really learn from him as an artist.”
On the flip side, Brian is extremely proud of his student. “It was great all the way along,” he said. “Nick was is imaginative worked very hard and he has turned out a lot of successful pieces. His music is top quality.”
Hidden deep within that music is Nick’s love for the guitar – a heavy guitar with massive and loud sound, amplified distortion and emphatic beats. Nick’s current passion is with the heavy metal genre. Strong elements of it are found in most of his compositions. He has spent a great deal of time developing his technical ability on that instrument.
Today, he finds inspiration from his heavy metal bands days. His compositions “come from a very personal, inner place.”
“They have a lot of visceral energy. Some are very dark and virtuosic … insanely fast with driving rhythms and guitars tuned very low,” he said.
His love of heavy metal aside, the body of Nick’s work have earned him some very prestigious awards, including being named a finalist for the 2013 Rome Prize. He has been commissioned by music festivals, institutes and organizations across the U.S. After graduating from Heidelberg, he received his master’s degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he met his wife, Kristen, who is also a musician.
At Heidelberg, he shared some of his most recent works from the past couple of years, including piano from within for piano trio, anima/animus for viola, clarinet and piano trio, and funeral symphony: A cycle of seven processionals after m.k. ciurlionis.
The 2014 New Music Festival was the third time Nick has appeared as a guest artist. It likely won’t be the last.