Nico de Villiers


I play the piano out of necessity.  Whichever way I look at it, I would have to say I play the piano because I have to.  Some days it is because I have to prepare for a performance, or I have to prepare repertoire before coaching. Sometimes I have to because there is a bill that needs paying.  But the need that underscores all of these – inspired or practical – is that I play the piano because since I can remember there has been a need from my core to do so.  So I did. And I do.

Playing the piano gives me a way of expressing myself, to be creative, interact with others on a one-to-one basis when playing in a duo or more when playing ensemble works.

Not only does my playing give me a way to connect with others on a musical level, but I am fortunate to at the same time study a wealth of literature and deal with various languages. I enjoy the buzz one gets when on stage and knowing the people are listening, sharing in what you have to say.


I can not choose only one person.  Throughout my life until now there were various people the played different roles in my development.  Some did so knowingly, and others did so without realizing the impression they made.

Three people, though, have directly influenced me in getting where I am now, and I am fortunate that they are all still in my life.

My mother was the one that had the wisdom of suggesting a scene change regarding teachers when I was on the brink of giving up (at the age of 6).

Secondly my piano teacher in South Africa, Johan Cromhout, who inspired me, believed in me and guided me to prepare for scholarship auditions, which eventually gave me the opportunity to study in Scotland.

My third person is American collaborative pianist Martin Katz with whom studied for two years at the University of Michigan.  He not only taught me so much about playing collaboratively with others, but also opened up a world of language and literature to me, which made me fall in love with my field of work all over again.  Martin was also the one that – through his teaching and coaching – made me realize where I would find a niche for myself in which to flourish and bring together all the aspects of my craft.

Without any one of these three people my career would not have been where it is today.

Earliest memory… 

I do not have one specific memory of walking to the piano and trying out some notes.  As language evolved for me, so did piano playing.  I started playing by ear and arranged various songs I heard over the radio and the television.

By the time I was six I played all over the keyboard, with all ten fingers. I made up my own songs, pretending to play various concerts for filled concert halls in our sitting room.  The frustration I then had to endure in learning to read notes needed some guidance and care, which after a little shaky period I eventually found in my piano teacher Johan.

Proudest career moment? 

Are we there yet?  There are various points where I felt pretty chuffed with what I did, but then the next thing came along, the bar raised and the focus is set on the next goal.

Performing at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC was pretty great and so was walking out on stage at the Barbican in London.

‘Musical family’

I grew up in a musical family. I am the youngest of four and we all took music lessons. Our house must have vibrated when we all got going: I’d be practicing piano, my sister double bass, my one brother guitar, the other one drums. Mom played saxophone.

Music was a general part of my day and I had piano lessons once a week.  I studied privately, going to my teacher’s house for an hour, later on for two hour lessons.  We gradually worked through the various grades of the ABRSM and UNISA (University of South Africa) and I performed at various Eisteddfods and Music Festivals.  These festivals were usually in preparation for grade exams or competitions.

Most important qualities in a great  pianist?

Guts, dedication, curiosity, imagination to name but a few. Every day I am still finding out qualities to add to this list.

The biggest challenge overcome

Each day brings a new challenge. But some milestones would include for instance to know, when playing a piano quintet, how to listen in order to blend, move in and out the texture of the ensemble and be soloistic when appropriate. Another would be to breathe with a singer whilst playing.  It does wonders.


1 Comment

Filed under Interviews

One response to “Nico de Villiers

  1. Pingback: Pianists from the Inside |

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s