We had the good fortune of connecting with Nick Manson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nick, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I have never really had an aversion to risk regarding life/career goals. I have always embraced risky opportunities. I grew up in a very rural setting 60 miles north-east of Seattle. Consequently, I realized at an early age that I needed to meet like-minded musicians from all over the world and make music with them to achieve my artistic/career goals. During middle school, I began to discuss the Berklee College of Music with my parents. I had read about the school in both Downbeat and Musician magazines. Because of this desire, I began to practice my instruments and honing my composing/arranging skills diligently. I spent no less than five hours per day from that time until I graduated from high school in preparation for my education at Berklee. That personal dedication eventually enabled me to attend the college on scholarship in 1981. After two years at Berklee, opportunities presented themselves to move to Los Angeles through contacts made during that time at the college. I jumped at that chance without hesitation. From that point forward, things just fell into place. I began to play all over Los Angeles on recording sessions and live performances. That led to the opportunity to tour internationally with Deniece Williams at 25 years old, which then led to producing recordings for the incredible Tim Noah on A&M records, which then led to producing thousands of arrangements for the Muzak Corporation, to then forming my own publishing company, Nickman Publishing, and record label, Manasus Music, as well, recording my first CD with world renown jazz bassist, John Patitucci. None of this seemed extraordinary to me at the time. In my mind, I was simply deeply involved in processes that interested me, and logically followed the path to where it led to next. Then in the late 1990’s I was offered a position at Spectrasonics, a sample library company in Burbank, and became involved in music software development there with Eric Persing, ultimately assisting in the creation or Stylus RMX, Omnisphere, and Trillian virtual instruments. After 9/11, I noticed that live music and recording session opportunites were becoming less frequent each subsequent year. In response to this shift, my wife and I packed up, left Los Angeles, and moved to Phoenix in 2007. Within six months, I was offered a teaching position at Mesa Community College in the Jazz Studies Department and began teaching there. By 2009 I was teaching at the college, gigging in Phoenix with my groups and as a sideman for others, producing tracks for clients online, and touring internationally with Christopher Cross. Looking back at my career timeline, I acknowledge that there were risks involved at each juncture, but I always embraced each twist and turn without too much concern; possibly being naïve and cavalier was helpful?
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am fascinated by processes more than anything else. Consequently, I have always been prone to becoming very narrowly focused on whatever I am engaging with artistically at any given time. I research a lot and study the histories of composers, musicians, arrangers, producers, audio engineers, and technologists. I guess in a certain way, it has been easy because being engrossed in discovery always shifts my focus away from worrying about potential difficulties that might be encountered. As I grow older, I want the world to know me primarily as a composer. I think my compositional style is highly recognizable; very much my voice as an individual.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, one of the aspects I enjoy most about the Valley of the Sun is all of the outdoor opportunities available here. I like to bike and walk a lot. I would probably drag someone to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum and the Casa Grande Ruins for sure. I live right by the Queen Creek Olive Mill, so I enjoy eating and drinking there, but my wife is an incredible vegetarian chef so I like to expose friends to her cuisine as often as possible. I’m a homebody for the most part, though.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I was fortunate to have been mentored by great music educators like my high school band director, Ed Peterson, my first jazz piano instructor Dave Press, my classical piano teacher, Peter Lederer, and my highly influential professor at the Berklee College of Music, Dave Mash.