MitchellFlutist, Conceptualist, and Composer
2020 USA Fellow
This award was generously supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
Nicole Mitchell is an award-winning creative flutist, composer, conceptualist, bandleader, and educator. A Doris Duke Artist (2012) and recipient of the Herb Alpert Award (2011), her research centers on the powerful legacy of contemporary African American culture and black experimental art. For over 20 years, Mitchell’s critically acclaimed Black Earth Ensemble (BEE) has been her primary compositional laboratory with which she has recorded 10 albums and performed at festivals and art venues throughout Europe, Canada, and the US. An emeritus president of the AACM, she composes for contemporary ensembles of varied instrumentation and size (from solo to orchestra and big band) while incorporating improvisation and a wide aesthetic expression. Her recognition as a 2018 recipient of the Champion of New Music Award from the American Composers Forum and the 2019 Women In Jazz Visionary Award from the Jazz Institute of Chicago are positive responses to her community impact. Much of Mitchell’s creative process has been informed by literature and narrative, with a special interest in science fiction. Her album, Mandorla Awakening (FPE, 2017), combined Afrofuturism with intercultural collaboration and was selected by the New York Times as the #1 jazz album of 2017. As a composer, she has been commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Newport Jazz Festival, the Art Institute of Chicago, the French American Jazz Exchange, Chamber Music America, the Chicago Jazz Festival, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), and the Chicago Sinfonietta. As a flutist she has developed her own signature language and has been a repeated recipient of the Top Jazz Flutist awards from Jazz Journalists Association and DownBeat Magazine from 2010-2019. She is the William S. Dietrich II Chair for Jazz Studies, where she works to continue the visionary legacies of her predecessors Geri Allen and Nathan Davis. Mitchell was previously a professor of music at University of California, Irvine.
Portrait photo by Jim Brock.