nick benavides

Arnold and Babette Salamon Fellow


“Growing up in New Mexico, I played traditional rancheras with my grandfather.  Most people who know me can attest that I rarely make it through the day without referencing green chile, telling stories about my grandparents or family, finding any excuse to speak or read Spanish.  I’m enamored with the culture of New Mexico and am very proud that my family has been there for hundreds of years, [with a] history that is just as intertwined with Iberians as it is with the Pueblo city-states that preceded their arrival... I’m also a jazz musician and a lover of dramatic forms of music like opera.”

— Nick Benavides


Nick Benavides’ music has been described as “wonderfully structured and harmonically imaginative…” (Music vs Theater) and “… sadly reflective… not a note was wasted” (San Francisco Classical Voice). He has worked with prominent groups such as Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, The Bay Brass, The International Orange Chorale, for change dance collective, and Friction Quartet. His music has been featured all over North America and Europe at festivals as well as on the radio.

Nick was 2016's winner of the Heartland Symphony Annual Composition Competition, placed first in SFCM's biennial Choir Composition Competition ('14), was a finalist for the Morton Gould Young Composer Award ('13 & '17), Houston Grand Opera Song of Houston project ('15), and Bard Music West competition ('17).

Upcoming commissions include an evening length work incorporating projections with wind octet Nomad Session based on small hidden spaces in San Francisco, a new work for Friction Quartet based on the Southwestern United States, an evening length dance piece for for change dance collective incorporating Teatro Catalina in Nicaragua, and a 25th season anniversary serenade for Left Coast Chamber Ensemble.

As the Artistic Director of the Guerrilla Composers Guild (, he has been called a “new music impresario of San Francisco” (Cy Musiker, KQED Arts). As a performer he has sung with Opera San Jose, the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. He is currently in composer in residence with Nomad Session and was composer in residence with Elevate Ensemble. He recently held a residencies at Avaloch Farm in New Hampshire, and at the Visby International Composers Centre in Visby, Sweden.

Nick has studied composition with Dan Becker, David Conte, Jack Perla, Pamela Quist, and Kurt Rohde and has received degrees in music at Santa Clara University (BA) and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (MM). He also studied with Philip Lasser as part of the EAMA-Nadia Boulanger Institute. He is the managing director of Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, on faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Academy of Art University, and is a teaching artist with the San Francisco Opera.