Whether composing or arranging; conducting ballet, opera, pops or symphonic repertoire; or performing as a concerto soloist with major orchestras Niel DePonte has gained a national reputation as one of his generation's most versatile musical artists. He is the Music Director and Conductor for Oregon Ballet Theatre and the Artistic Director of the Young Artists Concerto Competition in Portland. He has also been the Music Director of the West Coast Chamber Orchestra and the Bel Canto Northwest Opera Institute. This fall he will serve as the Acting Music Director for Portland State University's Symphony Orchestra.
DePonte has appeared as guest conductor with the symphonies of Oregon, Syracuse, Spokane, Charlotte, Anchorage, Tulsa and the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, and has conducted for soloists ranging from pops superstar and film composer Randy Newman to concert pianist André Watts. His conducting repertoire is equally varied: from symphonic and ballet music to opera and musical theater. He made his Chicago debut conducting Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George at the Goodman Theater (as well as at the grand opening performances of the Portland Center for the Performing Arts in 1987) and in May 1998 made his Boston debut conducting Swan Lake for Boston Ballet. Mr. DePonte has conducted on the international stage, particularly in Russia. He has conducted performances of Swan Lake at the Mussorgsky (Maly) Theatre in St. Petersburg, and Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty in Kazan at the Nureyev Ballet Festival.
DePonte's compositions have been performed worldwide. His musical arrangement for Houston Ballet's full-length production of Peter Pan is his latest in a series of compositions, compilations and arrangements written for the ballet stage. His Concertino for Marimba and Orchestra is his most often performed work, with over 100 performances having been given to date. His score to River of the West, is heard behind a three-screen film about the history of the Columbia River on permanent display at the Washington State Historical Museum in Tacoma.
Niel DePonte appears frequently before audiences in Portland and across America pursuing his many musical interests. He was a 2003 Grammy Award nominee in the category of Best Instrumental Soloist Performance with Orchestra for his performance of the Concerto for Marimba by Tomas Svoboda, with James DePreist and the Oregon Symphony on Albany Records. He was appointed principal percussionist of the Oregon Symphony in 1977 and has appeared with orchestras nationwide as a marimba soloist performing world premieres of works commissioned for him and his own compositions. He can be heard on CD conducting Oregon Ballet Theatre's version of The Nutcracker Ballet with the OBT Orchestra, and on the entire discography of the Oregon Symphony on percussion.
As President of MetroArts Inc, a non-profit arts education organization founded by Mr. DePonte in 1993, he has done considerable research on the use of the arts for teaching cognitive strategies in the classroom. He taught at Harvard University's seminar for educators, The Project Zero Classroom, in the Summer of 2001. Dr. Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor in Cognition and Education at Harvard University has written, "As a person who has worked for decades in the area of arts education, I can attest that there are few individuals with Niel's combination of talents, and literally only a handful who are devoting their lives to the education of young individuals. Oregon is lucky to have such an individual in residence."
Niel DePonte's MetroArts Kids Camp, having just completed its thirteenth season, takes place at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts each July. He has recently begun collaborating with the education department of the Oregon Symphony in bringing his curriculum for integrating music into the classroom to generalist classroom teachers, and consults with school districts across Oregon.
Mr. DePonte was born in New York City IN 1953 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 holds a certificate from Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, Professional Development Seminar, The Project Zero Classroom, and a degree in music education from the State University of New York. His conducting teachers include Leonard Bernstein, Lawrence Leighton Smith, Helmut Rilling, and Christopher Wilkins, among others.