Niel DePonte is the Principal Percussionist of the Oregon Symphony, a post to which he was appointed in 1977 at the age of 24. He has appeared with the Oregon Symphony, as well as other orchestras, as a marimba soloist, playing a varied repertoire including his own composition, Concertino for Marimba and Orchestra.
Niel was a 2003 Grammy Award nominee in the category of Best Instrumental Soloist Performance with Orchestra for his performance of the Concerto for Marimba by Tomas Svoboda, with James DePreist and the Oregon Symphony on Albany Records. He appears on all of the orchestra’s recordings. He is a clinician for the Yamaha Corporation.
Niel is also the Music Director and Conductor for Oregon Ballet Theatre,. A published composer, his works have been performed by the Oregon Symphony, the Eastman Wind Ensemble and other ensembles throughout the United States. He has composed, arranged, and edited orchestral scores for use in ballet performance, including a full-length ballet score for Houston Ballet’s 2002 production of Peter Pan.
As President of MetroArts Inc, a non-profit arts education organization founded by Niel in 1993, he has done considerable research on the use of the arts for teaching cognitive strategies in the classroom and taught at Harvard University’s Project Zero Classroom summer seminar. Annually, he conducts the Young Artists Debut program in Portland, coaching young musicians in concerto repertoire on all instruments and voice, and runs the MetroArts Kids Camp program each July at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts.
Niel holds an MM in Performance and the Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School of Music, and a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the State University of New York.