Nicole Mitchell (musician)

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Nicole Mitchell
Born (1967-02-17) February 17, 1967 (age 51)
Syracuse, New York, U.S.
Occupation(s)Musician, teacher
Associated actsBlack Earth Ensemble

Nicole Mitchell (born 1967) is an American jazz flautist, composer, and former chairwoman of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM).[1]


Mitchell was raised in Syracuse, New York until age eight, when her family moved to Anaheim, California.[2] Her first instruments were piano and viola, which she started playing in fourth grade. She was classically trained in flute and played in youth orchestras as a teenager.[3] Though she initially had intended to major in mathematics in college, she took a class in improvisation from Jimmy Cheatham while a college student at University of California in San Diego,[4] and took to busking in the streets playing jazz flute.[3] After two years at UCSD, she transferred to Oberlin College in 1987, before moving to Chicago in 1990.[5]

In Chicago she played on the streets and worked for Third World Press, a publishing house devoted to black culture.[3] She met members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and soon started playing with the all-women AACM ensemble Samana.[2]

Mitchell returned to school in 1993 and then again in 1996, completing her BA at Chicago State University in 1998; she earned her Master's from Northern Illinois University in 2000.[3] She began teaching at Chicago area institutions at the end of the 1990s, holding positions at Northern Illinois University, Chicago State University, Northeastern Illinois University, Wheaton College, and the University of Illinois at Chicago.[3]

In 1995 she met Hamid Drake and worked with him extensively in the second half of the decade. In 1997 she began an association with saxophonist David Boykin, who encouraged her to start her own group, leading to Mitchell's establishment of Black Earth Ensemble.[3] In the early 2000s, she became a co-host for the Avant-Garde Jazz Jam Sessions in Chicago that were started by Boykin, bassist Karl E. H. Seigfried, and drummer Mike Reed.

She issued her debut album with Black Earth Ensemble in 2001, entitled Vision Quest on her own label, Dreamtime Records. The album included appearances from Hamid Drake, violinist Savoir Faire, Edith Yokley, Darius Savage, and Avreeayl Ra.[6] Vision Quest was expanded into a theater piece in 2003.[7]

In 2006 she worked in the group Frequency with Harrison Bankhead, Edward Wilkerson, and Avreeayl Ra. They released a self-titled album that year on the Thrill Jockey label.[8]

Down Beat magazine named her the "Rising Star" for flute in their Critics Polls of 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008,[9] and 2009.[10] And in 2010 and 2011 Mitchell won 1st place in both the "established" flute and the "Rising Star" flute categories.[11][12]

From 2009-2010 she was chairwoman of AACM.[13]

In 2011 Mitchell received the Herb Alpert Award In The Arts, worth $75,000, from the California Institute of the Arts.[14] The same year, she joined the music department at the University of California, Irvine as an assistant professor, and was promoted to professor in 2013.[15] As part of a team of six faculty members, she leads the Integrated Composition, Improvisation, and Technology (ICIT) graduate programme.[16]


(Some of the following are credited to "Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble", with varying other musicians.)



  1. ^ "PowerGreater2". Retrieved 2018-09-02.
  2. ^ a b "Nicole Mitchell: West by Midwest - JazzTimes". JazzTimes. Retrieved 2018-09-02.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Margasak, Peter. "An Improvised Life". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2018-09-02.
  4. ^ "Before & After Listening Session With Nicole Mitchell - JazzTimes". JazzTimes. Retrieved 2018-09-02.
  5. ^ "Nicole Mitchell, an Innovative Flutist With an Afrofuturist Vision". Retrieved 2018-09-02.
  6. ^ Nicole Mitchell at Allmusic
  7. ^ "The Independent Ear | Q&A with flute explorer NICOLE MITCHELL". Retrieved 2018-09-02.
  8. ^ Jazz, All About. "Frequency: Frequency". All About Jazz. Retrieved 2018-09-02.
  9. ^ "Downbeat Critics Poll 2008" (PDF).
  10. ^ "Downbeat Critics Poll 2009" (PDF).
  11. ^ "Downbeat Critics Poll 2010" (PDF).
  12. ^ "Downbeat Critics Poll 2011" (PDF).
  13. ^ "The AACM at 50 | Ars Nova Workshop". Retrieved 2018-09-02.
  14. ^ "Nicole Mitchell | The Herb Alpert Award in the Arts". Retrieved 2018-09-02.
  15. ^ "Nicole Mitchell | ICIT". Retrieved 2018-09-02.
  16. ^ "ICIT | Integrated Composition Improvisation and Technology – A Graduate Degree in Music at the University of California, Irvine". Retrieved 2018-09-02.
  17. ^ "Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds". FPE records. Retrieved 2017-10-14.
  18. ^ "Artist: Nicole Mitchell; Title: Mandorla Awakening II - Emerging Worlds". Retrieved 2017-10-14.