Nicholas Urie is the coolest new Music Theory class instructor at NEC Prep!
About Nicholas Urie: Nicholas grew up in sunny southern California and moved east ten years ago to study composition with his hero, Bob Brookmeyer. Nicholas ended up getting both his BM and MM in jazz composition from NEC. Nicholas packed his bags after graduation and moved to Brooklyn where he lived and worked for a few years before being offered a professorship at Berklee College of Music and moving back to Boston.
Fun Fact: Nicholas is an avid sailor and loves nothing more than a day spent on the water.
As of 2013, Nicholas Urie teaches Music Theory at NEC Prep. He teaches Theory for Teens I & II, which is an accelerated Theory and Solfège course for teenagers new to formal study of Music Theory.
Q&A with Nicholas Urie
What is your earliest musical memory?
My earliest musical memory is of my mother playing an Earth, Wind and Fire record when I was maybe three or four. I remember hearing Debussy’s La Mer when I was in 10th grade and thinking to myself, “I really want to do that.” There have been a few moments in my life where something on the radio starts playing and my whole worldview changes.
What made you decide to be a composer/arranger?
I joined 4th grade band because it was required at my elementary school. It was band or extra physical education classes… Band was obviously the better choice for me. I played the bass drum. I actually became interested in pursuing music seriously in my sophomore year of high school when I started getting into jazz and contemporary classical music – something clicked in me.
Are there any musicians in your family?
I come from a family of fine artists. My father has a great ear, eclectic taste, and I think if he had chosen to do music instead of photography he would have been an excellent musician. He is interested in the popular music of his generation as well as contemporary classical music, jazz, “creative music,” etc., etc. He’s very catholic in his appreciation of music. My mother seems to me to be a little tone deaf but she loves music that has a deep pocket. Lots of Motown, funk, R&B, etc. She likes to dance in the car so anything with a deep groove sits well with her.
If you could be anything other than a musician, what would you be?
I’d be an architect. No question. I’d wear turtlenecks and Philip Johnson glasses and write manifestos about the nature of space. It would be awesome.
What do you like doing outside of music?
I’m an avid sailor (maybe obsessive is a more apt description), I love to cook, I’ve been an active woodworker since I was in my early teens and love spending time in the shop, I’m interested in learning about the history of art and architecture, and I enjoy taking care of my houseplants – I’d garden if I didn’t live in the city.
Most inspiring composer or piece of music?
Stravinsky’s Mass. Jimmy Giuffre’s Thesis/Fusion. Ives’ Three Places in New England. Frank Carlberg. Vince Mendoza. Hildegard von Bingen. There are so many composers who inspire me.
What are the last 3 pieces/songs you listened to?
I’ve been listening to Thelonious Monk pretty obsessively for the past few months.
What do you love most about NEC Prep?
I think the students are pretty amazing. The culture of NEC is pretty special too. I think the school does a really great job of cultivating the individual.
What’s the best piece of musical advice you’ve received and who gave it to you?
Vince Mendoza told me my whole job as a composer/arranger is to, “be specific.” “Be specific” is fairly abstract advice but I take it to mean that I need to have made all the decisions about any given piece/arrangement before it goes out the door. I think he was telling me not to delegate understanding to the musicians that would be playing the music. I try to be specific in my own internal hearing of the music before I write it down, be specific in the score by writing down – in an extremely detailed way – what it is that I’m hearing, be specific to the musicians in rehearsal, etc., etc.
Any advice for young musicians in general?
Try everything. Follow your obsessions.
To learn more about Music Theory at NEC Prep, click here, or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (617) 585-1160.