Nikki LaBonte

A Floridian by birth, Nikolette (Nikki) LaBonte joined the RPO in 2016. Nikki first moved to Rochester where she began studying with Principal Horn Peter Kurau. However, she took a break to pursue an opportunity in Hawaii as the Assistant Principal Horn of the Hawaii Symphony. Nikki also freelanced as a musician with the opera company on Oahu and taught the ukulele and recorder at an El Sistema program. At the end of her season in Hawaii, she was awarded a seat with the RPO, where she’s also a full-time graduate student at Eastman and continues freelancing. (You can read more about her process here.)

Nikki admits she gets nervous before a performance. How does she overcome performing in front of a packed hall? By tuning it out a few hours beforehand: completing some housework, watching TV on the couch, or even a run. Nikki credits zoning out to allow her to focus ahead of the concert. An hour before, she begins getting ready by listening to meditative tracks. Onstage, Nikki warms up to feel more secure but not overextended. The adrenaline rushes while performing on stage is hard to shut down; she usually unwinds post-concert by going out for a celebratory drink with friends.

Nikki’s life beyond the stage is equally exhilarating. She coaches local student ensembles and has private studio sessions. She also works with some chamber ensembles in smaller concerts throughout the year. Summertime is usually spent as an administrative staff member for a horn camp in New Hampshire and as an upcoming faculty member for a new Eastman Summer Institute.

An outdoor lover, she enjoys hiking and biking in the summer and has recently taken up skiing. However, her greatest (non-music) passion is diving. A certified scuba diver for 12 years, she and her father have made a tradition of taking a dive trip to a new locale each summer. Her most recent trip was to the Bahamas! 

Whether it’s on the stage during concerts or working with the next generation of musicians, Nikki is determined like your RPO to inspire, engage, and educate our area in the art of music. Consider donating during our Beyond the Stage Season-End Challenge. Every dollar donated, now through June 30, will be matched up to $300,000! Your generous support allows us to bring music to every corner of the City of Rochester and beyond, and fulfill George Eastman’s vision as a provider of music for all.

Visit rpo.org/beyondthestage for more information and to make your donation today.

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