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Nicholas Ariondo is an American accordionist, pianist, and composer. He is known for his work with various singers, such as Paul McCartney and Placido Domingo. A double Grammy Award winner with the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, he became the first American to be awarded Italy's Ancona Prize for his "Kalamatiano for Viola & Free-bass Accordion" (ACCO-Music Publishing). As accordionist-composer, he received over twenty awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) for his compositions and performances. He performs classical, jazz, and world music. Bill Palmer, historian, pianist, accordionist, composer, and editor for Alfred Music Publishing, nominated Ariondo for the International Who's Who in Music.
Ariondo has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Keyboard, Accordion Arts, Strings, and the Journal of the American Viola Society. The Keyboard magazine article stated, "Ariondo's skills as a composer and arranger contribute enormously to the effectiveness of his performances."
Nick Ariondo was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and started private accordion lessons at age 7 under the tutelage of TV personality Mario DiNardo. Whilst still new students, Nick and his older brother, Anthony, began playing for church functions, fashion shows and family events in the late 1950s before traveling to the west coast. Nick’s ethnic background is Italian-American and his grandparents came to the U.S from Naples, Italy.
Nick Ariondo’s early talents were soon discovered when the family moved to California in the early 1960s, studying accordion with multi-instrumentalist Ford Bosman, with foremost classical accordionist Anthony Galla-Rini, with noted jazz accordionist Tommy Gumina and jazz saxophonist/flutist Buddy Collette and with classical pianist/lecturer/teacher Dr. Milton Stern. At age 16, Galla-Rini entered Nick into the Western States Accordion Festival, winning the Virtuoso Category performing Liszt’s “Rhapsody Espanol” while acquiring a Certificate of Merit for Artistic Services from the Los Angeles City Bureau of Music. In his early twenties, he attended Los Angeles City College, was elected to the Alfa Chapter of Epsilon Alpha Gamma and upon graduation, was presented the Hugo Davise Composition Award for his “String Quartet No.1”. Nick continued studying arranging, orchestration & composition at California State University at Los Angeles where in 1987, he received the Distinguished Music Alumnus Award from the CSULA Friends of Music. During his studies at CSULA, he was accepted into the piano & string master classes of concert pianist Dr. Milton Stern and string pedagogue Noumi Fischer where Nick transcribed, adapted and arranged music for accordion with piano, violin, viola, cello and string bass. In 1976 he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music and four years later a Master of Arts Degree in composition and performance. The fulfillment of these degrees focused on performance which included Ariondo's original compositions and arrangements with special emphasis toward the utilization and integration of the accordion in chamber music settings. His masters thesis recital "Interaction and Integration of the Accordion in Chamber Music" encompassed a variety of music styles and genres from the baroque and classical to ragtime, gypsy, improvisational to the avant-garde mixed with accordion, strings, woodwinds and voices. Nick continued performing, composing and arranging while developing a vast reportoire for the years ahead. His work in the opera field with director/vocal coach Wendel Phillips led Nick into performing & arranging operatic arias and duets directly from the piano scores, accompanying a variety of singers in concert with accordion and small ensembles, a valuable learning experience into the world of operatic literature and understanding the vocal concept of accompaniement.
At the young age of 17, Nick Ariondo was soloist and accompanist with pianist David Pinto in the Café Russe Cabaret Theatre production in Hollywood, CA., performing with international singers and dancers of varied backgrounds and cultures. In the early 1970s, Nick was hired as the solo musician at Kavkaz Russian-Armenian Restaurant in West Hollywood, California, where he also accompanied Nick known international names Vigen Derderian (famous Persian-Armenian singer), Inna Miraeva (Russian Gypsy songstress), Lonia and Berta (Russian gypsies from Brazil), Rima Rudina and Hratch Yacoubian (international violinist/entertainers). It was during this time that Nick also worked with gypsy/classical violinist Shony Alex Braun, acting and performing as Shony's musical director in concert as well as appearing on his recordings. Nick toured with violinist Rima Rudina as a duo act concertizing in various parts of the U.S. and in 1974, ’78 and ’87 was a three time winner of the International Grand Prix Competition sponsored by the Accordion Federation of North America. Throughout his career as accordionist and pianist, Ariondo developed a unique ability to reach out to diverse audiences of all ages and ethnic cultures, performing on keyboards in nightclubs and private functions. His astounding ‘live’ concerts and videos on Youtube are a testament to his devotion and everlasting commitment to innovative accordion artistry. Hailed American composer Lukas Foss personally wrote Nick in 1988 saying, “I am impressed by your music, by the way you write for accordion and by your playing: so precise, so powerful.” Critics have referred to Nick Ariondo as…"the Yehudi Menuhin of the accordion". The L.A. Times calls him the "Pre-eminent L.A. accordionist"...."the irrepressible avant-garde accordionist!”...."infinitely expressive, technically dazzling!"...."a force to be reckoned with!" Nick Ariondo was featured onstage with Plácido Domingo in L.A. Opera’s World Premiere “IL Postino” by Daniel Catán televised on PBS Great Performances and distributed on DVD by Sony Entertainment. The Artistry of Nick Ariondo has appeared “live” on radio stations throughout the West Coast, on cable television and KCET's Classic Arts Showcase. In 1987, after a standing ovation and a riveting performance of Nikolai Chaikin’s Concerto for Accordion and Orchestra at UCLA’s Royce Hall, eminent conductor Zubin Mehta called Nick Ariondo “a brilliant success!” That same year Ariondo received the Distinguished Music Alumnus Award by CSULA’s Friends of Music for “achievement and dedication to his musical craft.” Nick worked closely with Britain’s acclaimed composer Thomas Adès in the Los Angeles premiere of “Powder Her Face” and in 1990, received an Artists Fellowship Grant from the California Arts Council awarded to “those artists who have demonstrated exemplary professional achievement in their fields.” Ariondo’s incomparable performances, original compositions and specialized arrangements in solo recital, in vocal/instrumental chamber music settings and as soloist with orchestra have gained him international attention. Guest television appearances include Dancing with the Stars, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson with violinist Nicola Benedetti and his music arrangements of Russian folk songs were featured in the Warren Beatty film “Love Affair” (Warner Bros.). His accordion performing can be heard on several film scores, including Rio 2, Knight & Day, Happy Feet Two, Bridesmaids and the Oscar-winning Life of Pi among a few. Stellar return performances of The Nick Ariondo Trio has become a favorite among audiences at Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti, Arizona’s architectural wonder 65 miles north of Phoenix (Nick's 2015 solo concert featured his original compositions dedicated to Paolo Soleri and Arcosanti). In 2012 Nick was selected as the featured artist to perform in Long Beach Opera’s production of Ástor Piazzolla’s “María de Buenos Aires” receiving rave reviews. Nick Ariondo’s concert reportoire highlights his arrangements and compositions of over 200 works ~ solos, duets, trios, small to large ensembles - vocal and instrumental, including an accordion concerto co-composed with colleague Edward Hosharian. Ariondo’s publisher is ACCO-Music Publishing and Accordiondo Music.
- Kalamatiano for viola & free-bass accordion
- Duo for double bass & free-bass accordion
- Fantasia for solo viola
- Concerto in G Minor for accordion & orchestra (Hosharian/Ariondo)
- Matsuri (Festival) for piano & accordion
- Global Dance
- Musette a la Russe
- Valse Brillante
- Tango Indo-Serene for violin, accordion & piano
- Tarantella for soprano & accordion
- Variations on a Jazz Theme for piano & accordion
- Impromptu for violin, clarinet & accordion
- Arabesque for accordion & strings
- Lucenta Sera (Evening Lights)
- Stella Notte (Starry Night)
- 2005 Trilucence
As sideman or guest
- 2000 Peggy's Blue Skylight, Andy Summers
- 2004 Variety Orchestra, Brian Woodbury
- 2005 Sings the Peggy Lee Songbook, Bette Midler
- 2009 Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack], John Powell
- 2010 Knight and Day [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack], John Powell
- 2011 Happy Feet Two [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack], John Powell
- 2012 Life of Pi [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack], Mychael Danna
- 2013 Monsters University [Original Score], Randy Newman
- 2013 Planes [Original Score], Mark Mancina
- 2014 Rio 2 [Score] [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack], John Powell
- 2016 Nobody But Me, Michael Bublé
- 51st Grammy Awards, Year 2008, Best Classical Album & Best Opera Recording, Kurt Weill:Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny
- "Vinto da un americano il Premio Internazionale 1987" (Italian publications) Carlino ANCONA ,1 Ottobre 1987,Giovedi – Anno 102, numero 268 ; Comune di Castelfidardo, Guigno 1987 – Anno X1X – N. 226, Vincenzo Canali
- International Who's Who in Music, International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, England, 14th Edition, 1994/1995.
- LA Times / Feature Articles : "Nick Ariondo Acts Accordionly", Orange County Calendar, 8-25-1995, B. Epstein "Atget's Paris Brings City of Lights to Getty" Calendar/Arts & Entertnmt, 7-17-2000, R. Ginell "He's All Keyed Up Over the Accordion" Calendar/Arts & Entertainment, 4-28-2001, D.Bates "The Accordion Holds a Lofty Place" "Polka? Nah, think Prokofiev" Calendar/Arts & Music, 4-20-2008, C. Meyers
- "Nick Ariondo – One of today's new breed of versatile, university educated accordionists", Accordion Arts Magazine, Winter 1978, Jim Nightingale
- "Discoveries" Keyboard, January 1991 – Nick Ariondo & Jonas Aras, by Titus Levi
- See Videos Category
- "Zubin Mehta:Nick Ariondo is a Brilliant Success" The Armenian Observer, Vol. XVII, No.18, April 1, 1987, by Edward Hosharian
- "Hundreds Enjoy Italian Night Dinner/Concert at Arcosanti", The Prescott Valley Tribune, July 18, 2001, Vol.30, No.19 A. Draper "Notte Nuvolosa – Monsoon Skies Add Drama to Arcosanti's Italian Fest", Big Bug News, July 14, 2010, Vol.38, No.28 Heidi Dahms Foster
- "Please Cry For Me, Argentina", San Francisco Classical Voice, Jan.29,2012 by Jim Farber; "Musical Notes:Long Beach Opera Delivers Power", Gazette Newspapers Long Beach, CA. posted 2-2-2012, Jim Ruggirello, Gazette Music Writer.
- "Nick Ariondo | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 July 2017.