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Those of you who hang around the Erie, PA music scene may know Louis Nicolia. He’s the violinist with the luxuriant, Brahmsian beard who has been a longtime member of both the Erie Philharmonic Orchestra and of Bruce Morton Wright’s Erie Chamber Orchestra. As a younger man, he bore an almost alarming resemblance to the young Robert DeNiro, the DeNiro of Taxi Driver. As a joke, I used to call Lou “Travis Bickel,” the antihero of that film. He didn’t much care for the nickname, and it wasn’t hard to see why. Unlike the conflicted and violent Travis, Lou is one of the gentlest, sweetest men I have ever met. And he has what jazz musicians call “big ears.” He’ll listen to anything – obscure Rumanian Roma violinists, Harry Partch, Sun Ra (the last, an enthusiasm that brought us together). He has devoted his life to music, and while he might disagree, music is finally paying him back. Later this month, Lou and his fellow Phil violinist Keita Fukushima will embark on a one-week tour of Japan. The two will play music that is as wide-ranging as the musical interests of the players: music by Leclair, and Gyorgy Ligeti, perhaps our greatest living composer. When I spoke with him tonight, Lou didn’t have much to say about the tour. “It hasn’t happened yet. I’ll tell you about it when I get back.” Modest he may be, but talkative he’s not. Check back in this space to see if things change after his and Keita’s return.

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