Described as being “…fiendishly precise…” (, Toronto based Canadian Nico Dann has been playing drums for over 15 years. Besides composing/arranging for and leading his own jazz and improvised music ensembles in Toronto and New York City, Nico has played and recorded with chart-topping indie luminary tUnE-yArDs (4AD Records), Montreal-based ex-indie band Sister Suvi and many other artists and bands.  Nico has performed at various festivals including the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands, Montreal’s Off Jazz Festival and POP Montreal, Austin’s South by Southwest, England’s Glastonbury Festival, New York’s CMJ Festival and the Distillery Jazz Festival in Toronto.  Nico has also played at many world-renowned venues including New York’s the Bowery Ballroom, Rockwood Music Hall, Rockshop and Sidewalk Café, Toronto’s The Rex, Montreal’s The Upstairs, Edinburgh’s The Jazz Bar and The Living Arts Center in Philadelphia.

Although Nico’s primary output has been in the jazz and indie-rock idioms, he has had the opportunity to play with ensembles in many musical contexts. Nico made his Contemporary-Classical Music debut playing the music of Peter Lieberson with violist-father Steven Dann and bassist Joel Quarrington at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre in 2008.  In 2010 Nico performed the Musical-Theatre compositions of Bram Gielen in Toronto’s Summerworks “Indie Theatre and Arts Festival”.   Lately Nico has been one third of Contemporary Blue-Grass Band The Alex Mallett Band.
Born in Amsterdam to Canadian, musician parents, Nico grew up in Toronto, Canada where he began studying music at an early age.  Beginning with piano study at age 8 he moved onto the drums at age 13, studying with Toronto’s Dave Patel and world-renowned jazz drum instructor Jim Blackley. In 2006, Nico graduated from McGill University in Montreal with a Bachelor of Music in Jazz under Chris McCann, Michel Lambert and Rémi Bolduc and attended Canada’s Banff International Workshop on Jazz and Creative Music studying with New York Jazz greats Dave Douglas, Clarence Penn, Gerald Cleaver and Scott Colley among many other notable players.  In 2011 Nico earned an MA in Jazz Performance from CUNY Queen’s College in New York City, studying with famed jazz drummer Nasheet Waits, alto-saxophonist Antonio Hart, trumpeter/arranger Michael Mossman and pianist David Berkman among others.  Nico was chosen to attend the Banff Centre again this winter (2014) to participate in a 3-week composition residency.
Over the years, Nico has put in a lot of time in the recording studio both as a leader/co-leader and appears as a sideman on more than 20 releases.  Notable appearances include, as a leader, Sister Suvi’s Now I Am Champion (2009, Common Cloud) and Rhododendron’s Double Stuf (2012, independent) and, as a sideman, The Jessica Stuart Few’s Two Sides to Every Story (2013, independent), and Bernice’s What Was That (2011, independent).

As well as being a performer, composer, recording artist and arranger, Nico has found a love for teaching and has held numerous positions as a teaching artist, maintaining a teaching studio and giving master classes and clinics both in Canada and the US.

As well as leading his own jazz ensemble Rhododendron Nico is currently working on two new projects with his wife soprano Ilana Zarankin.  Elephant Ear is an indie-folk band featuring co-written music by Dann and Zarankin.  Shepherds Heard is an ensemble dedicated to performing folk-jazz arrangements of post-19thc. classical vocal repertoire.


Drum Lessons for all Ages and Levels

Would you like to learn how to play the Drums? I am an experienced drummer and music educator and would love to show you how. I teach privately and at Bayview Glen School in Toronto. Throughout my career I have played, toured and recorded with many great musicians, including tUnE-yArDs, Bernice, indie-rock band Sister Suvi and in the Jazz world Peripheral Vision, Monk's Music, Rhododendron and many other award-winning artists. These days, as a freelancer in Toronto, I play in original jazz projects, musicals, classical chamber music concerts, country bands and singer-songwriter projects. In general I have a ton of experience to share with my students.

I've been playing for a long time and have made - and learned from - a lot of mistakes along the way. While there are certain basic concepts that I feel everyone should learn, I adapt my lesson plans to suit each individual student's learning style. Everyone has to find their own relationship with music and I believe I can help you find yours - whether it's playing by yourself at home in your spare time, going on to play music professionally, or anything in between. I love to teach all levels and all ages.

I have a BMus from McGill University and Masters Degree from CUNY Queens College in Jazz Performance. While my main instrument is drum set, I also play many other percussion instruments, piano, guitar and am a singer and a composer.

We can meet at my studio on the Danforth or I can come to your house anywhere in the Toronto area.

Thank you, and please send me an e-mail to get started!

Nico Dann

Current Projects

  • As a Leader

  • Rhododendron

  • improv/jazz featuring mostly my own compositions
    • Sebastien Ammann - Keyboards, Nico Dann - Drums/Vox Lauren Falls - bass, Nathaniel Morgan - Alto Sax Matt Plummer - trombone, Owen Stewart-Robertson - guitar
  • As a Co-Leader

  • Elephant Ear

  • indie-folk-rock
    • Ilana Zarankin - guitar, voice, violin, keyboard, Lauren Falls - bass, voice, Nico Dann - drums, voice
  • Shepherd's Heard

  • Classical/Folk/Jazz Quintet: Folk-Jazz arrangements of Folk-Music-Inspired Post-20th Century Classical Vocal Repertoire...and more!
    • Ilana Zarankin - Voice (co-leader), Joe Brent - Mandolin, Rebecca Hennessy - trumpet, Michael Herring - bass
  • God's Gift to Yoda

  • jazz collective/guitar-rock-band featuring all members as composers
    • Harley Card - guitar, Michael herring - bass Michael Herring - bass, Don Scott - guitar
  • As a Sideman

  • The Alex Mallett Band

  • indie banjo folk featuring the incredible song-writing of Alex Mallett
    • Alex Mallett - banjo/bass/vox Alan Biller - bass/guitar/vox, Nico Dann - drums/vox,