A passionate, wholehearted performer known for her ”vibrant cello playing” (The WholeNote), cellist Erika Nielsen has a multi-faceted career as a chamber musician, collaborative artist, orchestral player, and educator. Erika brings focused, heartfelt playing to every performance, with a musicianship that spans from Baroque and Classical traditions to contemporary and popular genres. She is also the author of the multiple-award-winning and #1 bestselling memoir and wellness guide, Sound Mind.
As a collaborative artist, Erika has had the privilege of performing with Kanye West at the former Air Canada Centre and MTV Canada’s Live at the Masonic Temple series, and with Juno-winner Johnny Reid for Canada’s Walk of Fame. Her 2019–20 season included performing the music of Prince and Stevie Wonder at Koerner Hall and George Weston Recital Hall for The Musical Stage Company’s UNcovered concert series. Erika also performed as part of the Dora-nominated ensemble for Onegin: The Musical in Toronto and Ottawa. Recent international performances include CHARLOTTE: A Tri-Coloured Play with Music as a part of the Luminato Festival in Toronto and the World Stage Design festival in Taipei, Taiwan. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Erika collaborated with Tapestry Opera in a distance recording project that featured excerpts from the contemporary opera Rocking Horse Winner.
As a chamber musician, Erika delivers heartfelt performances with full expression, generously sharing her whole self and striving to stir the passions of her audience. She regularly performs as a solo and continuo player with Rezonance Baroque Ensemble, who recently performed an acclaimed all-Handel program at the 2019 Bloomington Early Music Festival as featured emerging artists. Recent chamber performances include Brahms’ String Sextet No.1 and Mozart’s String Quintet in G minor at Music at 100, with fellow faculty at National Music Camp of Canada, and frequent appearances with Westwood Concerts at Gallery 345. Erika was on faculty at the 2016 ArtsAhimsa Chamber Music Festival in Lenox, MA, and has performed in series such as Soundstreams, Spectrum Music, Thin Edge New Music Collective, the Bicycle Opera Project, and with the minimalist sextet Muskox.
Erika was principal cello of the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra from 2011–13, where she acted as a concerto soloist, presented recitals, performed with the SSO String Quartet, and was an instructor at the SSO Conservatory of Music. She continues to lead cello sections with numerous orchestras across Ontario.
As a studio musician, Erika recently appeared on the soundtrack of CBC Television’s My Farmland, and has performed on albums by a breadth of Canadian artists such as soprano Tonia Evans Cianciulli, The Weather Station, Jennifer Castle, The Trews, and JUNO-winning children’s entertainers Splash’N Boots. She currently performs with Classic Albums Live and the 25-piece Toronto Motown band The Big Sound, and tours throughout the U.S. with the Electric Light Orchestra tribute band Strange Magic, who were featured live on The World’s Greatest Tribute Bands for AXS TV at Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles.
Born to a musical family in Lahr, Germany, and raised in Kingston, ON, Erika began her cello studies at the age of nine, later completing her Bachelor of Music at Queen’s University with Wolf Tormann and her Artist Diploma at the Glenn Gould School with David Hetherington. She has studied at numerous summer festivals such as The Banff Centre, le Domaine Forget, Toronto Summer Music, Schloss Beuggen International Music Festival in Germany, the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute, and the Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance for Baroque specialization.
A passionate educator with a love for teaching cellists of all ages, levels, and abilities, Erika has been on faculty at National Music Camp of Canada since 2018 and the Miles Nadal JCC Suzuki Program in downtown Toronto since 2016. She maintains a busy private studio, coaches chamber music and group classes, and is an itinerant cello teacher for Branksome Hall and Havergal College.
Erika’s instruments include a Parisian JB Collin-Mézin from 1885, a 1924 Roth converted for Baroque playing by Quentin Playfair, and a carbon fibre Luis & Clark for electric and contemporary settings. She is also a writer and has been a visual artist her entire life.