Niel DePonte, Principal Percussion
Niel DePonte is currently Principal Percussionist of the Oregon Symphony, having been appointed to that position in 1977 at the age of 24, the youngest principal percussionist in a major American orchestra at that time. He has appeared with the Oregon Symphony on numerous occasions as a marimba soloist, performing the world premiere of the Concerto for Marimba by Tomas Svoboda in 1995 at the American Symphony Orchestra League’s national convention and, in 1984, premiering his own Concertino for Marimba, published by Studio 4 Percussion. Equally at home on stage as a conductor, solo percussion artist, educator, composer, arranger, and arts advocate, Mr. DePonte currently holds the position of Music Director and Conductor of Oregon Ballet Theatre, as well as Solo Percussionist with Chamber Music Northwest, in Portland, Oregon.
Mr. DePonte has appeared as a guest conductor with the Oregon Symphony, the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, the Spokane Symphony, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, the Anchorage Symphony, the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra and at various music festivals throughout the U.S. He was the music director of the West Coast Chamber Orchestra from 1980-1990.
In 1996, Mr. DePonte was chosen as one of eight American conductors making their debut at the American Symphony Orchestra League’s National Conductor Preview in Kansas City. conducting the Kansas City Symphony. He has also appeared as a panelist at the ASOL’s national convention, speaking about methods to increase public funding for the arts.
Mr. DePonte was born in New York City and received his training at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where he earned a Master of Music degree and the Performer’s Certificate. He also holds a degree in education from the State University of New York. Mr. DePonte has studied conducting with Leonard Bernstein, Lawrence Leighton Smith, Helmut Rilling and David Effron, among others. His principal instrumental teachers and influences have been Fred Hinger, formerly Principal Timpanist of the Metropolitan Opera and Philadelphia Orchestras; John Beck, Principal Timpanist, The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Professor of Percussion, Eastman School of Music; William Cahn, Principal Percussionist of the Rochester Philharmonic; Leigh Stevens, marimba virtuoso; and Ted Frazeur, S.U.N.Y. Fredonia, Professor of Percussion.
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