Millikin experience helps pianist become a better musician and performer
Leon Lewis-Nicol's story is one of dedication. A native of Freetown, Sierra Leone, the West African native taught himself the piano for 10 years before moving to the United States in 2016 – an accomplishment he's very proud of because "it shows that nothing is impossible regardless of one's background," he says. After moving to the U.S., Lewis-Nicol chose to enroll at Millikin University to study piano performance and to better understand the music industry.
Flash forward; Lewis-Nicol is now a 2020 Millikin University graduate, and even though all campus events, including his music performances, were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic this spring, that did not stop his drive to continue to improve himself as a pianist. He continues to spend many hours practicing his craft, applying all of the skills that the faculty in the School of Music have taught him during his time at Millikin. "I was devastated when I found out about all of the changes to the rest of our semester. I was working extremely hard towards my last competition at Millikin, The Hollis Prize, as well as my senior recital," Lewis-Nicol said.
Lewis-Nicol added, "Performance Learning was different because all of the classes were online, however, it should be dynamic and thankfully the internet makes that possible. Other than having to prepare myself mentally for the new transition to online learning, everything was fine because the faculty worked extremely hard to ensure a smooth transition."
Among his many accomplishments at Millikin include performing alongside the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra (MDSO).
Lewis-Nicol now looks forward to the next chapter of his life as he pursues a graduate degree in jazz piano performance at either the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Indiana University Bloomington or University of Northern Colorado. Whichever program he chooses, he feels more than prepared for it.
"Millikin has equipped me with top-notch training, skillsets, connections and experiences that have prepared me for this next step," said Lewis-Nicol. "My short-term goal is to become a composer/arranger of commercial music or a performer. In the long run, I dream of going back to Sierra Leone to create a music environment for kids who grew up just like me with few opportunities."