Andrew Robert Nicholson, recent Principal Flutist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and soon to be Principal Flutist with the WASO in Perth, Australia, was born in Hampshire, England in 1970. He was introduced to the flute at the age of eight by Robin Soldan and later went on to be taught by Clare Southworth and Janet Alexander. At the age of thirteen he won the National Music for Youth Woodwind prize at the London Festival Hall, and was also regional finalist in the 1984 Shell L.S.O completion in London.
In 1985, Andrew was awarded a scholarship to study at the world famous Chethams School of Music where he performed regularly with the schools' various orchestras and ensembles. Whilst at Chethams, he won the Orchestral price and several Concerto prizes. He was successful in obtaining the Craxton, Ian Fleming and Martin Musical Trust awards and was also winner of the National Baroque Festival. In 1987 he was a finalist in the B.B.C Young Musician of the Year competition.
Andrew went on to continue his musical education in 1989 at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester (RNCM). It was during this time that he won several major scholarship and concerto awards including the Malcolm Sargent Award and was a regular soloist with the RNCM Chamber Orchestra. He also made a concerto appearance with James Laugran and the London Mozart Players.
Whilst at Music College, Andrew began his professional career working with the B.B.C Philharmonic Orchestras. He was appointed Principal flautist with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra in 1992, where he gave regular solo and concerto performances. His concerto appearances included the Mozart Flute Concerto in G, conducted by David Atherton, the Mozart flute and harp concerto, with harpist Yolanda Kondonassis and the Rodrigo Flute Concerto with Mathius Bamert. He also directed and performed Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 2. in 1998, he was awarded the title of Artist of the Month at RTHK Radio, for whom he performed a series of solo recitals; also that year he performed Nielsen's Flute Concerto with the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra.
1999 saw Andrew's return to England with his appointment as Principal flautist with the Halle Orchestra in Manchester. In 2000 Andrew performed the Mozart Flute and Harp Concerto, conducted by Kent Negano, and appeared as a soloist at the Bridgewater Hall as part of the Lunchtime Recital Series. He performed both the Nielsen Concerto and Mozart Flute Concerto in G with the Halle Orchestra conducted by Thierry Fisher, and it was as a result of these performances that Andrew was asked to record the Nielsen Flute Concerto with the Halle and Mark Elder CBE, Andrew is a frequent guest principal with many top British orchestras including Opera North, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Philharmonia, London Symphony Orchestra, Academy St. Martins-in-the-Field, English Chamber and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
In 2002, Andrew moved to London after accepting the position of Principal flute with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Since his move to London, Andrew has toured extensively with the orchestra and has also given masterclasses and recitals at the Royal College of Music, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Royal Academy of Music. He has recently recorded a solo CD of John Rutter's music with John Rutter and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and has also recorded the Mozart flute concerto in G major.
We had the opportunity to ask Andrew a few questions. Check out his thoughts on preparing for orchestral auditions, advice for upcoming flutists and how to keep in shape outside of rehearsals and concerts when playing for a full time orchestra.
1. In your opinion, how competitive is the present audition circuit?
The present audition circuit is extremely competitive. For example, over 100 players applied for a 2nd flute job in the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Many of them were from overseas and the playing standard was very high. When I was with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, over 150 people applied for the piccolo job.
2. How do you suggest preparing for a future orchestral audition?
To prepare for any upcoming orchestral audition, it is important to play the excerpts every day. Incorporate them into your daily practice. You should feel 100% confident playing them in front of people.
3. How do you keep in shape outside of rehearsals/concerts when playing in a full-time orchestra?
I simply try to keep things interesting for myself by doing as many different things as I can. Outside of the orchestra, these things could be chamber music, recitals and/or master classes. My students are also always keeping me on my toes! Sometimes I think I learn more about flute playing from them than at any other time.
4. How did you come to choose Miyazawa as your flute of choice?
In 2006, I ordered a Miyazawa Platinum flute with 14k mechanism model as I found the instrument to be particularly easy to blend with other instruments, particularly within the woodwind section.
When it was delivered, I was delighted that my new instrument arrived with all the fabulous tonal qualities that I remembered during the testing earlier in the year. My flute has a plethora of nuances, making it a real delight to play the extensive variety of repertoire that I cover as a Principal flutist in London. Notably, it has been suggested that it can sound almost like a wooden flute, as the timbre of the instrument has such deep resonance. I also particularly enjoy the power of the instrument in the larger symphonic repertoire.
As for the scale, on all Miyazawa flutes it is excellent whilst the new Brögger System and Brögger Thumb key is very light, and most certainly helps in making for a more even feel across the instrument. It is of course totally reliable, and I really do look forward to playing it each day.
5. If you had one piece of advice to give for an upcoming flutist, what would you tell them?
Make sure that you really want to do it. It takes an awful lot of dedication, and it surely is a competitive work place. But if you really love music and performing and are prepared to work hard, then good luck to you. I am still having so much fun making music, and I suppose that is the key... having fun!