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Music professor shares how music has impacted his life

Dr. Nick Curry, UNF School of Music assistant director and professor of celloDr. Nick Curry has been playing the cello since age 5 and says it wasn't until he started playing chamber music in high school that he fell in love with the instrument. Now, his passion is working with students and watching them improve throughout the year.  

When did your love of music begin and how did the cello become your instrument of choice?
My mother chose the cello for me when I was five years old, and I started out playing a very small cello. I found my love for cello when I started playing chamber music in junior high school and high school. My high school had a very rare string quartet program. I continued to love music even more as a student at Vanderbilt and Northwestern University playing chamber music.
How has music impacted your life?
Music has impacted my life in a number of great ways. It allows me to perform chamber music with others, which is my favorite thing to do. It also led me to my career as a teacher. Working with cello students at UNF and watching them improve and grow is one of the most rewarding things in my life. As music professors, we work with our students in a one-on-one setting which allows us to really get to know our students and it allows us to really invest. I enjoy all of these aspects of teaching.
Who are some of your musical influences?
I really like Ralph Kirshbaum and Steven Isserlis as cellists. When I was young, I was a big fan of Lynn Harrell. I love the Quatour Ebene string quartet. I am listening a lot now to the Galvin cello quartet which is made up of four outstanding cellists that study with the same teacher I had at Northwestern. I also enjoy other types of music. In college my friend exposed me to Motown and 70s funk and I was blown away by the music of Stevie Wonder. I also listen to pop music in the car with my daughter, which is fun.
Why did you decide to embark on a teaching career?
I decided I wanted to teach while studying with Hans Jorgen Jensen at Northwestern. He was such an incredible impact on my life and I wanted to try to give back to the music world in the way he gave to me. I was also inspired by my cello teacher at Vanderbilt, Grace Bahng. She gave me my first student and was such a dedicated teacher.
What brought you to UNF?
I wanted to be back in the south and closer to my family in Atlanta. Also, I had heard it was a really good situation with good leadership both at the University level and in the music department. When I came to UNF, I didn't want to go on my other visits. I became the first full-time cellist on faculty here and building a program was an exciting idea.
What are your current research interests/previously interests?
My main responsibilities at UNF are divided into three main areas. I teach my wonderful cello students and coach chamber music groups. I am the cellist in the Lawson Ensemble, which is the ensemble in residence at UNF. We have a concert series here and I love that part of my job. And finally, I am in charge of music scholarships, which involves working with the music faculty and the great people in admissions, enrollment services and financial aid. Outside of UNF, I like playing chamber music concerts and teaching at summer music festivals.
Describe your teaching style/philosophy
I like to give my students the tools to practice and then try to motivate them to utilize these tools in the practice room. The goal is that once they learn to practice efficiently, they can apply these strategies to any other piece they study and also pass along this information as future teachers. I'd say I'm usually a highly energetic teacher who tries to inspire and motivate while also checking in on other aspects of their lives at UNF to make sure they are doing well overall.
What do you enjoy most about working in the UNF School of Music?
I like playing in the Lawson Ensemble and working with my students. I enjoy watching students and other faculty members perform great concerts.
Who/What motivates and why?
Students. I'm motivated to give them the best possible experience here because that is what my teachers did for me.
What book(s) are you currently reading or recently read?
I am a sports nut so I watch a ton of sports. I do most of my reading with my nine-year-old daughter.
What do you like to do outside of teaching?
I like watching Duke basketball, the Atlanta Hawks, the Atlanta Falcons, University of Georgia football and I follow my alma maters as well. I also enjoy good food and wine.
What is one thing people may not know about you?
People might not know that I used to be able to shoot three-point shots really well. Most cellists stay away from basketballs because of our hands, but I used to love to play the sport.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Dr. Curry along with violinist Aurica Duca and violinist/violist Clinton Dewing, who make up the Lawson Ensemble, as well as the Chamber Singers are performing a free concert of Handel's Messiah this Sunday, Dec. 3 at 4 p.m. at St. Paul's by-the-Sea. He is scheduled to perform in a series of themed Candlielight Concerts at Friday Musicale, Inc. on the following dates: Dec. 8, 15 and 16. Dr. Curry is one of seven players that will be performing with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra at the Vystar Arena in Jacksonville on Thursday, Dec. 21.