Nicholas Cords

For more than two decades, omnivorous violist Nicholas Cords has been on the front line of a growing constellation of projects.


For more than two decades, omnivorous violist Nicholas Cords has been on the front line of a growing constellation of projects as performer, educator, and cultural advocate. As newly appointed Co-Artistic director of Silkroad, founding member of Brooklyn Rider, and Artist In Residence at Stony Brook University, he is deeply committed to music from a broad variety of traditions and epochs, with a particular passion for the cross-section between the long tradition of classical music and the polyglot music of today.

Nicholas serves as violist, Programming Chair, and Co-Artistic director of Silkroad, a musical collective founded by Yo-Yo Ma in 2000 with the simple belief that radical cross-cultural collaboration leads to a more hopeful world. This mission is poignantly explored by the recent Oscar-nominated documentary by Morgan Neville, The Music of Strangers, which profiles the individual stories of Ensemble members and makes a case for why culture matters in today's world. In recent years, Nicholas has served as Silkroad Programming Chair and has also been involved in bringing to life more than a hundred compositions and arrangements over the group's relatively short history.

Another key aspect of Nicholas’ busy musical life is as founding member of Brooklyn Rider, an intrepid group which NPR credits with “recreating the 300-year-old form of the string quartet as a vital and creative 21st-century ensemble.” In a short amount of time, Brooklyn Rider’s singular mission and gripping performance style have resulted in an indelible contribution to the world of the string quartet and has brought in legions of fans across the spectrum.

Beginning his musical education at the Juilliard School, Nicholas won top honors in the viola competition and subsequently gave the New York premiere of John Harbison’s Viola Concerto at Avery Fisher Hall. He completed his studies at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. His teachers and mentors have included Karen Tuttle, Harvey Shapiro, Joseph Fuchs, and Felix Galimir.

A committed teacher, Nicholas is currently viola faculty at New England Conservatory.  Mr. Cords plays on an instrument made for him in 2014 by famed Brooklyn maker Samuel Zygmuntowicz, modeled on the ex-William Primrose Giuseppe Guarneri (filius Andrea) from 1697. He performs on bows from a wide variety of the world’s top modern makers including Charles Espey and Benoit Rolland.