Nicole Mitchell (musician)

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Nicole Mitchell
Born (1967-02-17) February 17, 1967 (age 50)
Syracuse, New York, U.S.
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, teacher
Instruments Flute
Associated acts Black Earth Ensemble

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


Mitchell was born on February 17, 1967 in Syracuse, New York, where she was raised until age eight, when her family moved to Anaheim, California. 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. Though she initially had intended to major in mathematics in college, she took a class in jazz music from Jimmy Cheatham while a college student at University of California in San Diego, and took to busking in the streets playing jazz flute.[1] After two years at UCSD, she transferred to Oberlin College in 1987.

In 1990 she moved to Chicago, where she played on the streets and worked for Third World Press, a publishing house devoted to black culture.[1] She met members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and soon started playing with the all-women ensemble Samana under the AACM umbrella. In 1992 she left Chicago, living in New Orleans, and gave birth in 1994 to a girl named Aaya. She 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.[1] She met Hamid Drake in 1995 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, which she called the Black Earth Ensemble. 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.

Mitchell 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. She issued her debut album (with the Black Earth Ensemble) in 2001, entitled Vision Quest on her own label, Dreamtime Records. The album included appearances from Drake, violinist Savoir Faire, Edith Yokley, Darius Savage, and Avreeayl Ra.[2] Vision Quest was expanded into a theater piece in 2003.

Down Beat magazine named her the "Rising Star" for flautists in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. And in 2010 and 2011 Mitchell won 1st place in both the "established" Flute and the "Rising Star" Flute categories in the "Down Beat International Critics Poll." [3] She is the former first female president of the Chicago AACM. In 2006 she also worked in the collective Frequency with Harrison Bankhead, Edward Wilkerson, and Avreeayl Ra for an album released on Thrill Jockey. From 2009-2010 she was president of AACM.

In 2011, she was appointed Assistant Professor in music at the University of California, Irvine, and was promoted to Full Professor in music in 2013.



  1. ^ a b c Peter Margasak, An Improvised Life. Chicago Reader, August 3, 2007.
  2. ^ Nicole Mitchell at Allmusic
  3. ^ Nicole Mitchell at
  4. ^ "Nicole Mitchell, Label FPE Records". Retrieved 2017-06-13.