About Nick Xenelis, Maestro of the Baroque Sinfonia of Sonoma County, California

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Photograph of Nick Xenelis Nick Xenelis began his musical studies in Grade 5 in the Lynn, Massachusetts public school system. His father was a classical music enthusiast, and in addition to the distinctive modes and rhythms in the music of his Greek heritage, Nicholas was also exposed at an early age to the intricate harmonies of Beethoven, Mozart, Shostakovich, Rimsky-Korsakoff and Moussorgsky. At that time, private lessons cost $1.25 for a half hour of instruction, and Nicholas practiced diligently for 1 1/2 hours daily to justify the expense. In the 8th grade, he was walking the proverbial two miles after school to attend band rehearsals three times weekly.

During his high school years, Nicholas participated in all of the All-State and District Honor groups. He formed a band with other young musicians, and they hit the local wedding, christening and dance circuit, filling the need for live entertainment. At age 15, Nick won a scholarship to a summer music camp in Maine that resulted in a performance with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra. His audition with Fiedler was arranged by the camp director, after which the Maestro commented "He'll do. Just practice." Later that year, Xenelis performed Carl Maria von Weber's "Concertino" on the Symphony Hall stage under Fiedler's baton.

During his summer in Maine, Nicholas developed an interest in jazz and improvisation. His musical tastes expanded, ranging from Coltrane to the Beatles, and he and his friends often played in local coffee houses where they enjoyed the freedom to experiment with different jazz forms.

While attending Boston University, Xenelis studied violin, and to this day remains a passionate educator and spokesperson for stringed instrument instruction. His first teaching position was as string specialist for grades 4-12 in Bedford, Massachusetts. He received his Masters Degree from Lowell University in Massachusetts, where he majored in woodwinds and minored in strings. He later taught bands at Berkeley High School and King Junior High in Berkeley. He instituted and directed a Community Band and Chamber Music Ensemble class at the College of the Siskiyous from 1978-1980.

In 1980, Xenelis assumed Eugene Shepherd's position as Director of Bands and Orchestras at Lawrence Cook Junior High in Santa Rosa, California, where he remained until 1988. Most notable awards were First Place Band in the annual Santa Rosa Rose Parade for five consecutive years.

Photograph of Nick Xenelis conducting Corelli's Christmas Concerto In 1988, Nick became the Music Director at Santa Rosa Middle School. He directed the band, orchestra, choir, and jazz band, and his groups consistently received superior ratings. He also directed the Santa Rosa High School String Orchestra from 1990-1998, and his students performed major works such as Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony and Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings.

Though Xenelis still coaches and assists with various music programs in the county, he is now retired from teaching in the public school system and is devoting more time to performance. He frequently freelances as a chamber musician in Sonoma County, and has been a regular member of the Santa Rosa Clarinet Quintet since 1988. Nick has performed on the flute, saxophone and clarinet with the Santa Rosa Junior College jazz ensemble and the Tuesday evening wind ensemble group. He has also played with the Russian River Coffee Concert series, Cinnabar Opera Productions, the Cotati Philharmonic, and has substituted in the Santa Rosa Symphony.

Nick’s previous performances with the Baroque Sinfonia include Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto (1987 and 2003), the Bruch Concerto for Clarinet and Viola, Weber's Clarinet Concerto #2, and Rossini's Theme and Variations. In 1993, while our Maestro Eugene Shepherd was recuperating from knee surgery, Xenelis substituted as conductor for the Baroque Sinfonia. It is such a pleasure to welcome him back to Baroque Sinfonia on a permanent basis as our Maestro!

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