Nicole Oswald


Hometown: Boise, ID

Alma maters: Eastman School of Music; Frost School of Music – University of Miami; Carnegie Mellon University

Instagram: @nicole.o.violinist

Photo by Matt Dine


Awards/competitions: 2020 Lucyane Guedes Memorial Award, Carnegie Mellon University; 2019–20 Honors String Quartet, Carnegie Mellon University

Appearances: West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Charleston; Palm Beach Opera Orchestra, Florida; The Josef Gingold Chamber Music Festival of Miami, 2020; AIMS Festival Orchestra, Graz, Austria, 2018; The Castleman Quartet Program, 2009–10, 2012–17, Guest Artist 2018; Miami Youth for Chamber Music, Artist Faculty

What is your earliest memory of classical music? Watching The Art of Violin and applying for a library card so that I could check out CDs from the Boise Public Library.

When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career? Coming from a family with no musicians, I constantly struggled to find like-minded peers and honestly didn’t know what a career in music meant. I first left Boise when I was 10 years old to study with Mimi Zweig at Indiana University, and a whole new world of opportunities unfolded there. A few years later while I was studying at the Castleman Quartet Program, I discovered my innate desire to create and communicate through this wooden tool I had been studying every day since early childhood. I never looked back, and attribute my love of creating music to my experience studying at the Quartet Program.

How did you hear about TŌN? What inspired you to apply? Several of my friends, colleagues and peers have been members of TŌN! I was inspired by friends of mine at Carnegie Mellon to apply. Together, we stirred up some thought-provoking conversation about what musical achievements could be reached by TŌNers.

What do you think orchestra concerts should look like in the 21st Century? I believe that community engagement is the key to breaking the so-called “fourth wall” that orchestras have been struggling with for decades. An orchestra concert in the 21st century should always represent the surrounding community by way of programming, collaboration, and engagement with audiences. I’d like to see orchestra concerts as a relevant and current cultural immersion in the community. Orchestras are meant to be a part of the community and engaged with the here and now, not sanctioned to a stage.

Who is your biggest inspiration? The impossible question—there is always new perspective to gain.

Which composer or genre of music do you feel you connect with the most? Innately, string chamber music, but I’ve had recent obsessions with everything from Ennio Morricone film scores to Puccini operas, the Bill Evans trio and Ella Fitzgerald. I recently discovered an album featuring the collaboration between Yehudi Menuhin and Stéphane Grappelli.

What has been your favorite experience as a musician? A challenging question, but my most memorable experiences happen either when I’m collaborating with my peers or when I’m able to travel, give back, and learn about other cultures (ideally, both coinciding). Most recently, I was able to connect with music students of all ages and experiences in Santiago and Antofagasta, Chile.

Do you have any embarrassing performance stories? As a teenager, I had to be sewn into my concert dress moments before performing at an international competition. The zipper broke! My pianist happened to have an emergency sewing kit in her purse and several moms frantically sewed me in. The worst part was that the zipper was on my right side and exposed to the audience/panel. I opted for the raggedly-constructed dress over my jeans and flannel . . . and to my surprise, I was awarded the top prize in my division. Perhaps the Tchaikovsky Concerto was less intimidating than my wardrobe malfunction!

What is some advice you would give to your younger self? Stress less and enjoy the moment.

If you could play another instrument, what would it be? I’ve always wanted to be able to play the 1st Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto . . . as the pianist.

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing? Anything involving travel and the arts

What is your favorite place you’ve travelled to and why? I really enjoyed living in the Netherlands as a teenager. Nothing beats a cup of espresso and poffertjes before biking to class alongside the canals of Utrecht.

Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to have dinner with and why? Josef Gingold, Eugène Ysaÿe and Nathan Milstein, because I’d love to hear what it was like to read string quartets with Queen Elisabeth of Belgium.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us: I will always ask to meet your dog.

Piece of advice for a young classical musician: Be prepared for anything, cherish every live performance (onstage or in the audience), and listen endlessly to a variety of recordings.