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Julianna Nickel – Flute

Julianna Nickel is musician, teacher and business owner. As adjunct Professor of Flute at George Mason University, where is she a two time recipient of Mason’s Distinguished Teacher of the Year, she works with a full studio of flutists, conducts the flute choir, and teachers Career Readiness. Through Juli Nickel Consulting, Ms. Nickel continues her work with musicians as they apply and audition to music school.

During the pandemic, Ms. Nickel and her family turned their driveway into a concert venue, presenting seven completely different styles of concerts that were each attended by a hundred or more people. Colleagues from ensembles across the region and other young musicians, including the Mason flute studio, performed on these events between May 2020 and May 2021.

Ms. Nickel loves performing chamber recitals, as an orchestral player, and as a soloist. Some of her favorite chamber music venues have been the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, the National Institute of Health, the Alden Theater, historic Mount Vernon, Salisbury College, and Georgetown University. As an orchestral player, she is the principal flutist with the American Festival Pops Orchestra, and substitutes with the Washington National Opera, the National Philharmonic, Alexandria Symphony, the Maryland Symphony, and the American Pops Orchestra. Since moving to the DC area in 2008, Julianna has performed as a soloist with the American Festival Pops Orchestra, the George Mason University Symphony Orchestra, the George Mason University Wind Ensemble, and the Landon Symphonette.

In college, Julianna was the principal flutist and personnel manager of the Gardner Museum Orchestra. Ms.Nickel’s first job after college was as the principal flutist of the Evansville Philharmonic. Later, after moving to Dallas in 1998, she became the principal flutist of both the Plano and Irving Symphony Orchestras and the piccolo player for the Durango Music Festival. In past years, Julianna greatly enjoyed performing as a substitute with the National Symphony Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Florida Orchestra, the Mariinsky Theater Orchestra, the Vermont Symphony, the Boston Philharmonic.

Julianna developed focal dystonia while in her early 30’s, which almost terminated her musical career. While searching for a correct diagnosis and proper information for almost two years, Julianna could not play flute at all. After finding the right neurologist in Houston, TX, she started a regime of Botox injections in her left arm that allowed her to return to playing at a high level, but not her highest level that was needed to continue auditioning for symphony orchestras. In search of a cure for all who suffer from the rare neurological condition, Julianna, applied to, and was accepted into, a clinical trial at the National Institute of Health. In 2018, she became the first musician to have deep brain surgery, her goal being to become an active participant in finding a real cure for focal dystonia. In the most basic terms, an electrode was inserted into the thalamus of her brain. A battery in the chest communicates with the electrode. The surgery was successful, and Julianna’s left hand moves today on the flute due to the electrode and battery. A blog (in need of much revision!) is on a Facebook page called “Julianna’s Journey”. An advocate for the health of musicians, Julianna spends many hours talking to injured musicians, including those with focal dystonia. She spoke frequently with the four musicians who followed her in the NIH clinical trial as they prepared for surgery and the subsequent appointments needed to program the device as the process takes a few years. Her journey has increased her knowledge of musicians’ injuries and mindset when facing trauma.

Like many of her peers, Julianna adjudicates competitions of all types and presents a wide variety of masterclasses for different events. Her teaching career began as a students in Boston and then she accepted a teaching position as the flute professor for the University of Evansville, Indiana. She also particularly enjoyed the teaching experiences of summer programs at the Kinhaven Music Schools in Weston, Vermont, and the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival in South Africa. Until recently, she was the Director of the Flute Academy for Mason Community Arts, which is now part of the program’s larger summer band intensive.

Ms. Nickel’s students are highly successful in school, local and national competitions. Studio members have gone on the graduate school at the New England Conservatory of Music, the Eastman School of Music, the Peabody Institute of Music, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of North Texas, the University of Southern California, the University of Southern California, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Her education majors are teaching across the country as successful leaders in their schools.

Julianna attended the New England Conservatory Music where she received both her Bachelors and Masters of Music. Her teachers were Paula Robison, Fenwick Smith, and Leone Buyse. Prior to transferring to NEC, she attended the University of North Texas for two years studying with Jaqueline Hofto. Ms. Nickel was a Tanglewood Fellow. She also spent a summer with the National Repertory Orchestra in Colorado, and two summers each with National Orchestra Institute and the Aspen Music Festival, where she had the incredible privilege of soloing with the AMF Chamber Orchestra at the age of 17.

Ms. Nickel grew up in Austin, TX where she studied with the amazing Megan Meisenbach. While in high school, she soloed with the San Antonio Symphony and the Central Texas Orchestra. Julianna is married to James Nickel, a French Horn player with the National Symphony Orchestra, and is the proud mom of two amazing young people.


Melissa Dvorak – Harp

Melissa Dvorak enjoys a vibrant and exciting career as busy harp soloist, chamber musician, orchestral player and harp instructor.

Her rich and varied orchestral experience has given her the opportunity to perform with the Baltimore Symphony, Washington National Opera, The Cathedral Choral Society, The National Chamber Ensemble, Fairfax Symphony, Alexandria Symphony, Maryland Symphony, the National Philharmonic, the Connie Francis Touring Band, the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, The Royal Ballet, the Marininsky Ballet, US Air Force Band, the American Pops Festival Orchestra and the National Orchestral Institute.

In 2016 she had the distinct honor to play for Pope Francis’ Historic visit to the United States.

She was selected as the featured solo harpist for the 55th Presidential Inauguration and has had the honor to play for every living president. She enjoys performing at various landmarks and programs throughout Washington. She has played on the State Department Recital Series, the Southwest Chamber Players, the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, and events at the US Capitol, US Supreme Court and the Carnegie Institute of Sciences, The Smithsonian, National Basilica, and The Library of Congress.

Recent performances include the dedication of Legacy Memorial Park for the DC Commission on the Arts, and the Horatio Algers Awards.

Melissa has been heard on NPR Morning Edition, and performances have been televised internationally, as well as locally.

Melissa is an avid educator and maintains a private studio of about 40 young harpists. She is a certified Suzuki Harp Instructor, which focuses on starting children as young as 3 on the harp. She is currently the director of Harp Ensemble for the American Youth Philharmonic Orchestra program. She has been on faculty as instructor at The Levine School of Music, Salisbury University, Howard University, and the Holton Arms School. Students have had success in wining International and local harp competitions.

In 2011 Melissa released her CD entitled Lullabies for Lily.

Dedicated to promoting the harp, Melissa has co-founded both the Mid Atlantic Harp Festival (2008) and the Mid Atlantic Harp Festival Scholarship competition (2010). She served on the Board of Directors of the American Harp Society from 2007-2013 as the Mid Atlantic Regional Director. She is currently the Vice President of the DC Chapter of the American Harp Society.

Melissa holds Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in Harp Performance from the Peabody Conservatory of Music, and completed additional studies at the Salzedo Summer Harp Colony. Her primary teachers were the late Jeanne Chalifoux and the late Alice Chalifoux.

She currently resides in Falls Church, VA, with her husband John, and their 2 children.