Born in the Australian outback town of Orroroo, Nick Parnell began teaching himself drums in his parents’ sheep shearing shed at the age of ten.
Such humble beginnings ignited a passion in Parnell that has led to accolades including first place in the International Melbourne Percussion Competition in 2001, a Centenary of Federation Medal awarded by the Australian Government (for contribution to the arts) in 2003 and the Dame Roma Mitchell Churchill Fellowship in 2011.
Parnell completed his music studies at the Elder Conservatorium of Music, University of Adelaide (Australia) and was awarded a PhD in 2010. He also studied and undertook master-classes with many of world’s great percussionists including Uffe Savery from the famed Safri Duo, Evelyn Glennie and Gary Burton.
A creative spirit who believes a greater level of artistry is possible, Parnell very quickly became attracted to the beauty and subtlety of the vibraphone, to which he has applied his dexterity to become one of the world’s great vibraphone virtuosos. However, his prodigious musical talents extends across a range of percussion instruments from marimba to various exotic drums.
Parnell has performed with the English National Ballet, Russian Ballet Company, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, West Australian Symphony Orchestra and Australian String Quartet. He has performed at the Adelaide and Melbourne International Festival of the Arts, International Canberra Chamber Music Festival, with Musica Viva, Adelaide Contemporary Music Festival, International Barossa Music Festival, Womadelaide and Australia’s first International Percussive Arts Society Festival. Venue appearances include the Melbourne Recital Centre, City Recital Hall Angel Place and the Australia High Commission (UK & KL).
Parnell has proudly shared the stage with inspirational artists including pianists David Helfgott (Shine) and Michael Kieran Harvey (Ivo Pogorelic Piano Competition joint winner), shakuhachi grand master Riley Lee (TaikOz), didgeridoo virtuoso Mark Atkins (Led Zepplin/Philip Glass) and marimba soloist Bogdan Bacanu (Austria). He has worked with many distinguished conductors including Gunther Schuller, Lorraine Vaillancourt and Olari Elts.
He has given over 15 tours in throughout Australia within the last decade and brought his vibraphone to enthusiastic audiences in SE Asia and the UK.
Parnell has recorded a number of albums – Generally Spoken It’s Nothing but Rhythm, Classical Vibes and Vibes Virtuoso – released by ABC Classics. His new album Secret Songs will be released in 2017.
A passionate educator, Parnell has presented hundreds of masterclasses including the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Elder Conservatorium of Music, West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, University of Melbourne as well as many schools. In 2015 the Nick Parnell Percussion Academy was established to support percussionists and teachers of all levels strive for musical excellence.
As one of the first musicians to bring the vibraphone to the attention of the classical music world, Parnell’s ongoing ambition is to break down the elitism of classical music and make it available for everyone to enjoy.