Kevin Nordstrom, D.M.A.
Kevin Nordstrom, D.M.A.
Adjunct Instructor, Applied viola
Faculty String Quartet, Viola
Violist Kevin Nordstrom leads a busy career as a performer, teacher, and scholar. He has performed as a soloist, recitalist, chamber and orchestral musician across North America, Europe, and China––where he is also in demand as a masterclass clinician and lecturer––and has served on the string faculties of the University of Louisville, Wright State University, and Earlham College.
As a performer, Dr. Nordstrom specializes in late Romantic, Twentieth Century, and Contemporary music for the viola and holds a special fondness for works by Henri Vieuxtemps, Paul Hindemith, and those by English and American composers. He has performed sonatas and concert works in this repertoire at far flung venues from Xi’an, China to Vancouver, Canada; from Juárez, Mexico to Spoleto, Italy; from Los Angeles, California to Sydney, Maine. As a soloist he has appeared in works such as Cecil Forsyth’s Concerto for Viola in G minor and W.A. Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat for Violin and Viola K. 364, which he has performed on several occasions but most memorably in his student days at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria a mere stone’s throw from where it was composed.
As a recitalist Dr. Nordstrom has earned attention for his performance of viola works in the extant repertoire and also done much to bring new life to neglected works for his instrument, such as sonatas by American composer Marion Bauer and the Frenchman Charles Koechlin. An important showpiece for him has been Joan Tower’s Wild Purple for solo viola, which he has performed often and recorded professionally at the special request of the American Viola Society. Additionally, he has worked to promote new music by seasoned and young composers, performing it and offering advice on its suitability for the viola. For example, several solo and chamber works have been commissioned for him from composer Alyssa Morris in recent years. Most prominent among these is her Puccini Fantasy for Viola and Piano (2021), a beautiful and virtuosic work which Dr. Nordstrom has performed often since its completion and recorded professionally, but also her new Trio for English horn, viola, and piano and forthcoming concerto for viola and orchestra which promises to be an important addition to the concerto repertoire for viola.
In addition to live performance, Dr. Nordstrom is committed to his online performance presence and regularly posts videos of his recitals on his Vimeo page, found here. Tied into this is his participation in the recent trend of online music competitions. In the past several years, Dr. Nordstrom has won awards for his video recordings of Joan Tower’s Wild Purple, Rachmaninoff's Cello Sonata in G minor op. 19 arr. Viola, J.S. Bach's Suite no. 3 in C major BWV 1009 for Cello (Viola), and György Ligeti's Sonata for Viola Solo.
As a chamber musician Dr. Nordstrom performs regularly as violist of the Aurelian Trio as well as in a string duo with his violinist brother, Dr. Stephen Nordstrom. With his colleagues of the Aurelian Trio, Dr. Nordstrom has focused on the standard repertoire and done much to promote the music by composers from Mexico, Central and South America such as Manuel Ponce and Heitor Villa-Lobos as well as music by Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir and Estonian Mirjam Tally. In their efforts to promote the music of these composers, Dr. Nordstrom and the Aurelians have been invited artists to the Hispanic Heritage Festival in West Palm Beach, Florida and to the Seminario Conciliar de Ciudad in Juárez, Mexico a special honor done them because of that venue’s close ties with Pope Francis and goals of promoting the art music of Mexico.
Wearing his scholastic hat, Dr. Nordstrom often gives presentations and clinics at music conferences and publishes articles in string journals. As a member of the College Music Society (CMS), Dr. Nordstrom has discussed and given performances of works by György Ligeti, Charles Koechlin, Marion Bauer, Lillian Fuchs, Alyssa Morris, and Joan Tower at several of their regional and national conferences. Dedicated to advancing discourse on string music education, specifically for the violin and viola, he has presented clinics for the Texas, Pennsylvania, and Ohio Music Educators Associations and at several American String Teachers Association (ASTA) National Conferences, often in collaboration with his colleague and brother, Dr. Stephen Nordstrom. The brothers have worked closely on several articles published in the American String Teacher Journal. Other articles by Dr. Nordstrom alone have been published in the Journal of the American Viola Society (JAVS) including his analysis of Ligeti's viola sonata, as well as pedagogical studies on vibrato and advanced double-stopping. Dr. Nordstrom has served on editorial boards for both the American String Teacher Journal and the Journal of the American Viola Society and had been Program Chair for CMS conferences. Additionally, he is the creator/writer/producer of The Great Composers Podcast, found on iTunes (click here!) and across the web.
Dr. Nordstrom holds a Bachelor of Music degree from The University of North Texas, and the degrees of Master of Music, Artist Diploma, and Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where his secondary studies were in music history. His teachers have included Dr. Catharine Carroll, Mr. Masao Kawasaki, Dr. Susan Dubois, and Dr. Kathryn Steely. He plays on a rare American viola from 1893 by Jerome Bonaparte Squier, the so-called “American Stradivari”, who made but a handful of violas, and suiting his whimsy, bounces between various bows including ones crafted by Richard Grünke, Martin Devillers, and Jérôme Thibouville-Lamy.
Aside from all this, Dr. Nordstrom enjoys recreational studies in musicology, the history of string players (primarily violinists and violists who are often one and the same) and of violin and bow making, as well as composing and arranging. His non-musical life sees him reading volumes on American and ancient-modern European and Chinese history, novels of various sorts––favoring those by Charles Dickens and Robert Graves––golfing (probably too often), and spending time with his wife and two daughters.
BM - Univesrity of North Texas
MM - Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
AD - Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
DMA - Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music
In my role as a university viola instructor, I am responsible for students with diverse musical backgrounds who share a desire to pursue an education in music and apply it to their lives and careers. My aim as a studio and classroom teacher is to foster a supportive environment where learning is the primary objective of all students as well as myself. I continually seek new ways to communicate and engage with my students so that they learn and grow as people and musicians. I also lead by example, performing recitals and engaging in scholarship so that students can better understand my teaching through my work. By tailoring lesson objectives to each individual, and implementing group activities such as studio classes and a viola choir, I develop students into independent, self-motivated, and confident musicians, who work well with others and will thrive as professionals after graduation.
In lessons, I approach each student as an individual and in a manner which does not suppress their personal characteristics. The most effective way to improve skills is through the study of a wide variety of repertoire, ranging from concertos by Stamitz, Walton, and Bartok to sonatas by Vieuxtemps, Brahms, and Hindemith. Additionally, at every lesson my students are expected to play scales and technical exercises, as well as etudes by Kreutzer, Rode, and Lillian Fuchs among others. While studying this material, students begin to discover how their hands work and what the best way to execute technical challenges is. Even while using the same instructional material across an entire studio, a flexible and imaginative teacher can take into consideration a variety of different learning styles, and formulate new methods that are appropriate to each student in their care. For example, a student preparing for a concerto competition needs a different lesson framework than one getting ready for an orchestra audition. This is the basis for my upcoming OMEA clinic, “Structuring Lesson Plans for a Better Practice Routine,” which focuses on tailoring lesson plans to each student’s learning style and performance needs, providing them with a consistent framework to follow at home.
Weekly studio classes are an integral part of my university teaching. They often take the form of a group lesson, where students perform their current repertoire as well as etudes. Listening activities play an important role in the class as well. For example, I will ask a student to bring to class a recording of a viola work that they enjoy, which they will then describe and everyone will listen to. Often times students will bring recordings of pieces from outside the standard repertoire, which helps to broaden their appreciation for what is available for our instrument.
While playing in the viola choir, students collaborate with one another and establish themselves in leadership roles different from those in traditional chamber music and orchestral settings. Older students have the responsibility of running rehearsals and leading performances. They also serve as mentors to younger students, helping them grow as musicians within a collegial environment. This cooperative effort keeps my students driven both individually and collectively as they strive toward a common goal. Playing in the viola choir is not only a fun activity, but it provides students with additional avenues for performance and personal expression. The experience gained in the viola choir enhances what they learn during lessons, and increases their confidence as performers in a way that will be valuable throughout their careers.