Léonie Sonning Talent Prize 2017

Mikkel Egelund Nielsen

I love 'nerding' with my guitar

Sometimes, Mikkel Egelund Nielsen is playing on his guitar so often that his nails are almost worn down. Therefore, he cares meticulously for his nails.

As a guitarist, it is important to care for your nails. Some have manicures, but Mikkel Egelund Nielsen does it himself. He always carries a purse with tools for filing and polishing nails. The numerous pieces of sand paper are made of fabric and may be as fine as 12,000-grit, where 80- or 120-grit is usually used for wood grinding. To avoid spending a whole day polishing nails, Mikkel has found several techniques for polishing nails while doing other things at the same time. He enjoys his second cup of coffee in the morning while polishing nails, and chatting at lunchtime is accompanied by nail polishing.

It is of great value to me as a guitarist to have my nails filed and polished. If they are the least rough, you can hear it on the first strike, and therefore I polish them, Mikkel explains. He has a whole series of sand paper with various degrees of fineness ranging from 1,200-grit to 12,000-grit. Sometimes it may be necessary with diet supplements to strengthen his nails. When studying in Germany, he was practising so hard that he had to use nail varnish and adhesive tape for support and to prevent his nails from being worn down.

In his father's footsteps

During his childhood in Bornholm, both Mikkel and his younger brother Mads followed in their father's footsteps and started playing the guitar. Mikkel practised a lot and it was relatively easy for him to do the things that the other children in the music school found difficult. This motivated him to continue. His brother Mads stopped playing the guitar and is today a muscular police officer and physiotherapist. The thing with the long nails started for Mikkel when he was 12 at his guitar teacher's recommendation.

While Mikkel's pals chose to move to Copenhagen to study, Mikkel went to Aarhus.

I could feel that there would be too many distractions if I went with my friends to Copenhagen. So I went to Aarhus and really enjoyed »nerding« intensively with my guitar, Mikkel Egelund says. Now, he is moving to Copenhagen with his girlfriend.

Soloist

Mikkel debuted from the Soloist Class at the Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus, at the end of February when he was given the opportunity to play in the Symphonic Hall of Aarhus Concert Hall. Now, he is about to get established in Copenhagen where he attends the soloist class at the Royal Academy of Music with his guitar duo, Aros Guitar Duo. After 10 years, it is not only the city of Aarhus he is leaving, it is also a large number of people who he has played with and is very fond of, but we will keep in touch, I'm sure of it, Mikkel says, and he is already used to travelling to and from Aarhus and Copenhagen.

Mikkel loves playing chamber music with others and enjoys teaching in the music school, but it may affect his solo career, which bothers him: I love playing solo and 'nerding' with that. But, at the same time, playing together with others gives me so much joy. There is just not enough time so I have to be careful not to neglect my solo career, says Mikkel, who is playing on a Simon Marty guitar from Australia. He used to play on a traditional Spanish guitar, but the Marty guitar is heavier; there is simply more wood in it. It is good for polyphonic works and has a warmer expression, Mikkel explains, and elaborates: It is very inspiring to play on because it has an exquisite sound. And it is easy to handle with my left hand, says Mikkel, who is constantly seeking new challenges. The next project is to develop the technique on a baroque guitar.

Mikkel Egelund Nielsen, guitar

Born: 1987, Pedersker, Bornholm

Debuted in February 2017 from the soloist class at the Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus. Plays in Aros Guitar Duo with Simon Wildau.

Scholarship

To be spent on lessons with David Starobin in New York and with the world renowned lutenist etc., Rolf Lislevand, in Trossingen, Germany.