Guest Blog: Nick Parnell

I’ve know Nick all of my life – he’s my brother. I am not biased when it comes to his musical ability. He is seriously good and I’m not the only one who thinks so!

“Parnell wields the mallets with the nonchalance of mastery … virtuosity worthy of the highest praise.” – The West Australian

“Dazzling dexterity … balanced with supreme delicacy.” – The Advertiser.

Nick started his musical career by hitting empty Milo cans. He graduated to a drum kit and funnily enough, he never once drove any of our family, or neighbours, mad with his drumming. I think we all knew he had a talent, even back then.

He’s about to embark on a tour that will cover WA, SA, NSW and Victoria – look for him at a venue near you. Being a country boy, he takes his tours to the rural areas as well as the city.

Here, Nick answers some questions about being a professional muso, but before that, here’s just a bit about his tour:

Award-winning percussionist Nick Parnell is one man with 50 instruments in a high-energy performance of festive Brazilian rhythms, ethnic drums, soaring Bach and Gershwin melodies. Following a sell-out 2010 Fringe Festival season, Parnell is joined on stage by visiting US pianist Graeme Burgan for a national tour of Bach to Brazil. Opening on 10 September until 10 October, this latest tour traverses Western Australia, SA, VIC and NSW, seeing him visit both regional and metro venues.

Audience members will be entranced by tuned wine glasses, bamboo chimes, ethnic drums, woodblocks, piano and vibraphone, as they all get a serious work out. The highlight of the evening is Parnell’s interpretation of Brazilian composer and percussionist Rosauro’s 27-minute masterpiece Brazilian Rhapsody.

Parnell’s innovation and precision playing heralds him as one of a new generation of Australian musicians stepping into a glittering career as a master of percussion.

Nick Parnell

Tell us a little about yourself

Well, I’m a concert percussionst. So I hit things for living!

I grew up in country SA in Orroroo and went to boarding school in Adelaide, where I now live. But I’ve enjoyed living for short periods of time in London and Denmark. These times were all music related and gave me a real sense and direction with my percussion. I have a wife and a dog! I’m passionate about striving for excellence with my music and giving audinces all over Australia a real experience when they see one of my shows.

When did you know (and why) that you were going to make music your life?

It was about year 8 at school. I knew I loved playing music, but then I didn’t know exactly what avenue of music I would persue. I orrignally wanted to be a rock drummer, then jazz drummer but ended been a percussionist that plays a lot of classical and world music.

What instruments do you play?

I play most percussion instruments. Most of my music is actually “melodic” in nature and played on the vibraphone or marimba (which look like a xylophone but sound like a piano). But I also play all sorts of drums, gongs, cymbals, bongos etc. Some of the more unusual instruments include tuned wine glasses and bird whistles. In this coming tour (Bach to Brazil), I’m actually playing over 50 different percussion instruments!

What study have you done to get where you are?

I’ve just completed my PhD in percussion performance. So I’ve done a lot of study. But music is really a life time of study. You are always learning and refining your art. Theres no way I could learn everything about percussion in my life time.

What does a normal day for you entail?

Everyday seems to be different. Somedays I’m performing, or travelling to a performance, or taking a school workshop or in the recording studio. But most I make sure I get a few hours of practice done.

If you could chose one musician to play with, who would be it be and why?

There are so many musicians out there who are great, that I cant answer that. But my musical hero is rock guitarist “Slash”, there is just something about the way he plays that gets me…. I can’t explain it.

Who is your inspiration?

In terms of percussionists – Gary Burton (American Jazz Vibes player), Safri Duo (amazing multiple percussinist from Denmark). But I get inspired by listeneing to all sorts of music (classical , jazz, world, pop) and musicians. Right now I’m listening to Santana album that someone leant me – and its making me want to go a hit some drums!

What is your ultimate goal/challenge?

To have a complete mastery of my instruments. I’m not sure if “complete” mastery is possible, but its what I strive for.


Friday 10 September          Jerdacuttup , WACommunity Hall

Sunday 12 September        albany , WA Town Hall Theatre

Wednesday 15 September            Bunbury , WA – Entertainment Centre

Friday 17 September          dalwalliNu , WATown Hall

Saturday 18 September WYALKATCHEM , WATown Hal

Wednesday 22 September            thornlie , waDon Russell PAC

Thursday 23 September esperance , WA Esperance Civic Centre

Sunday 26 September        MURRAY BRIDGE, SA – Christ Church Lutheran

Tuesday 28 September      MELBOURNE, VIC – Melbourne Recital Centre

Wednesday 29 September            WAGGA WAGGA, NSW – Riverina Conservatorium

Thursday 30 September Sydney , nswNSW Art Gallery

Friday 1 October                  ORANGE, NSWOrange Conservatorium

Saturday 2 October Yass , NSWMemorial Hall

Wednesday 6 October        NOWRA, NSWShoalhaven Entertainment Centre

Friday 8 October                  muswellbrook, NSWUpper Hunter Con. (School Hall)

Sunday 10 October             Byron Bay, NSW – Community Centre

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