Nikolai was born in Leningrad in 1975. After graduating from music school (as a part of a class taught by I.P. Pimenova) and the M.P. Musorgsky vocational school of music (as a part of the class taught by E. S. Matveev), he was admitted to the St. Petersburg Conservatory, to study under Docent O. S. Chernyadyeva.
During his first year there, he won the International Competition in Minsk and received the second prize at the All-Russian competition of wood-wind instrument performers in St. Petersburg. During his third year, after winning the competition among wind players of the Conservatory, he was invited by the Jury chair, the legendary Swiss flutist Orel Nikole, to do an internship at the W. A. Mozart European Chamber Music Academy in Poland.
After graduating from the Conservatory, he continued his studies in the graduate school of the Higher school of music and theater in Munich, under a famous flutist, Professor Andrash Adoryan. He received simultaneous support from several German foundations: Gartow Stiftung, Chamber Music Academy and the charity fund of the world-famous violinist I. Menukhin, Live Music now. In 2000, Nikolai Popov became the first performer on wind instruments—a representative of Russia in the G. Malher Youth Orchestra (chief conductor—Claudio Abbado) and participated in the «Millenium-Turn» Orchestra with the French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez.
While still a fourth-year student at the music academy, Nikolai Popov became a soloist of the concert philharmonic organization «Petersburg Concert.» This job marked the beginning of his active participation in concert performances. From 2002-2011, he was the soloist of the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra under the direction of the USSR National Artist Vladimir Fedoseev.
From 2012 on, he has been a soloist at the Bolshoi Theater. As a soloist, Nikolai Popov performed with the Tchaikovksy Symphony Orchestra, orchestras of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, the chamber orchestra «Virtuosos of Moscow» and many other collectives under the direction of conductors such as V. Fedoseev, V. Spivakov, R. Martynov, F. Mastanzhelo, A. Sladkovsky, etcetera. In addition to classical music ventures, he participates in jazz projects, creates and creates arrangements for various music collectives. He has collaborated with a highly diverse range of musical groups: Vermishelli Orchestra, «Terem-Quartet,» «RockoCo», «Easy Winners Ragtime Band» and many others. He is an active pedagogue, and gives master classes in cities throughout Russia and abroad.