Nico de Villiers

Photo of Nico de Villiers

Deputy Head of Vocal Studies

BMus(Hons), MMus, MMP, PhD, FHEA

Email: [email protected]

Dr Nico de Villiers 

South African-born Nico de Villiers is a pianist, coach, and researcher and is the Deputy Head of Vocal Studies at the Royal Northern College of Music. He holds degrees from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, the University of Michigan, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Prior to his appointment at RNCM, Nico worked as vocal coach at various institutions including the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA), the Royal College of Music (London, UK), and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London, UK).

Current and Future Research

The life and music of Dutch-American Richard Hageman (1881-1966), with a specific focus on his art song as well as the interchanging influence between his work in Hollywood’s Golden Age and his concert music.


Nico de Villiers, “‘Do Not Go, My Love’: A Song’s Centenary,” The Classical Singer 30, no. 8 (October 2017): 46-50.

Nico de Villiers, “Italian Intrigue,” Opera Magazine 70, no. 1 (January 2019): 17-21.

Nico de Villiers, “Singing the Songs of Rabindranath Tagore: Richard Hageman’s Settings from The Gardener,” VOICEPrints, Journal of the New York Singing Teachers’ Association 19, no. 4 (March/April 2022): 48-58.

Nico de Villiers, “Sounding Out a Poet in Disguise: Richard Hageman’s Five Robert Nathan Settings,” VOICEPrints, Journal of the New York Singing Teachers’ Association  20, no. 4 (March/April 2023): 66-77.

Nico de Villiers, “On Migration, Exile, and Cosmopolitanism: A Brief Survey of South African Art Song,” Journal of Singing, Journal of the National Association for Teachers of Singing Vol. 80, no. 3 (Nov/Dec 2023): 145- 156.

Editor: On Collaborating, peer-reviewed Journal of the International Keyboard Collaborative Arts Society

Associate Editor: VoicePrints, peer-reviewed Journal of the New York Singing Teacher’s Association

Undergraduate Teaching

SVSO Performance Classes

1-to-1 Vocal Coaching

1-to-1 Diction Coaching (German, French, Italian, English)

Vocal Ensemble, Chamber Music, Collaborative Piano Coaching

Repertoire Studies: Undergraduate elective on art song (BMus 3)

Postgraduate Teaching

SVSO Performance Classes

English Repertoire Performance Classes

1-to-1 Vocal Coaching

1-to-1 Diction Coaching (German, French, Italian, English)

Vocal Ensemble, Chamber Music, Collaborative Piano Coaching

Professional Activity

Regularly performing as collaborative pianist with singers and chamber musicians, Nico performed in recital at the Terrace Theatre at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, Birmingham Symphony Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Royal Festival Hall, the Barbican in London; the Kammermusiksaal in Bonn, Germany, and the Mozarteum Grosser Saal in Salzburg. Festival performances include the Salzburg Festival, Edinburgh Festival, Oxford Lieder Festival, Chopin Birthday Festival in Warsaw, Poland, and the International Johannesburg Mozart Festival in South Africa. He worked as the deputy director of music to the Lewisham Choral Society in London (2012-2022) and was repetiteur for several choirs including University College Choral Society (London, 2009-2012), the Royal Scottish National Junior Chorus (Glasgow, 2003-2005), and Cumbernauld Choral Society (Glasgow, 2002-2005).

Nico relishes the opportunity to work with singers and pianists in masterclasses and workshops. He has previously lead classes at institutions such as the Birmingham Conservatory, University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Michigan), Florida State University (Tallahassee, Florida), University of Portland (Portland, Oregon), Florida Atlantic University (Boca Raton, Florida), Kungliga Musikhögskolan in Stockholm, Sweden, the Universities of Stellenbosch, Pretoria, Potchefstroom, and the Free State in South Africa. He has been on the faculty of various summer programmes including the Oxenfoord Summer Programme in Scotland, the Abingdon Summer School of Solo Singers, the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria, and the International Music Academy in Pilsen, Czech Republic.


As a collaborative pianist and vocal coach, Nico de Villiers’s particular research focus includes American art song of the first half of the 20th Century, art song as a migrating genre, biography as research, and performance as research.

Nico has a particular interest in the unearthing and performance of neglected and undiscovered composers. He curated and performed a complete series of the piano chamber music of Hungarian pianist-conductor-composer Ernst von Dohnányi in London and made the world-premiere recording of Polish pianist-composer André Tchaikowsky’s Piano Sonata (1958) for Toccata Classics (2013). Nico subsequently performed some of Tchaikowsky’s piano works and songs across the UK, Poland, and South Africa. He features in the EntertainingTV documentary Rebel of the Keys which focuses on Tchaikowsky’s life and the revival of Tchaikowsky’s opera The Merchant of Venice at the Bregenz festival.

Since 2011, Nico’s main research activities have been focused on the life and music of the Dutch-American composer-pianist-conductor Richard Hageman (1881-1966). Nico founded the Richard Hageman Society in 2011 to focus scholarship and research into Hageman’s life and work. As director of the society, Nico opened the Richard Hageman Aqueduct, he unveiled a memorial plaque at Hageman’s birthplace in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. Following rediscovering the score, Nico spearheaded the European premiere of Hageman’s orchestral piece, Overture in a Nutshell which was performed by the North Netherlands Symphony Orchestra and maestro Per-Otto Johansson as part of the celebration of Leeuwarden being named the 2018 European Capital of Cultural. Nico’s doctoral research at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama culminated in a dissertation entitled The Becoming of a Song Composer: A Critical Re-evaluation of Richard Hageman and His Songs, discussing the cosmopolitanism present in and development of Hageman’s artistic identity. With Kathryn Kalinak and Asing Walthaus, Nico co-authored Richard Hageman: From Holland to Hollywood (Peter Lang, 2020), the first critical biography of Hageman.