Don Nichols is a performer, composer and long-time collaborator with dance dedicated to innovative and interdisciplinary performance. He is an active performer in a variety of musical styles including contemporary solo percussion, jazz, chamber music, improvisation and electro-acoustic music, as well as with the dance/music group PMPD. His vehicle for musical expression encompasses real-time electronics and a wide range of percussion instruments, which include pitched and un-pitched instruments, traditional and non-traditional drum sets, resonant metals and gongs, hand percussion and found objects. Using these materials, Nichols forges new pathways in performance, expands the expressive potential of contemporary percussion, and establishes new connections with contemporary dance.
As a frequent interdisciplinary collaborator, Nichols continually explores new relationships between music and other performance forms. He is the Music Director for the Dance Department at Cal State Long Beach and he previously served as the Music Director for the Dance Programs at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and Missouri State University. As a dance collaborator, Nichols has performed extensively throughout the US and abroad, including festivals in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, New Hampshire, Oregon, Hungary, Romania, Argentina, Denmark and Norway. As a composer and musician for dance Nichols has worked with Nina Martin and the Lower Left Performance Collective, Andrew Harwood, Kim Epifano, Sandra Mathern, Allyson Green Dance, Peter Carpenter, Kacico Dance Company and the Patricia Rincon Dance Collective. Following his collaborative mission, Nichols co-founded PMPD with choreographer Rebecca Bryant in 2002. PMPD combines movement, sound, technology and theater elements into a brand of live art that challenges traditional notions of performance.
His work has been received with critical acclaim and awards. Nichols combines “a creative mind with the touch of a gifted percussionist and improviser” (John Lane, Percussive Notes Magazine), and his playing is “infectiously melodic while remaining rhythmically complex…perfectly reactive and interactive.” (Don Seybold, WBAA Public Radio) In 2000, Nichols became the first percussionist awarded a Fulbright grant to Sweden, where he worked closely with percussionist Anders Åstrand. In 2011, he received an Indiana Arts Commission Grant to record his debut solo CD “Station of Small Sounds,” which presents a series of original electro-acoustic compositions and improvisations. Nichols has performed extensively throughout the US and internationally, including Carnegie Hall, Disney Hall, the Spark Festival [MN], Sonorities Festival [N. Ireland] and the Agora Festival [France]. Reflecting his diverse talents, Nichols performs and collaborates with a variety of leading artists, which have included Steven Schick, Max Roach, Roger Reynolds, Evelyn Glennie, John Luther Adams, Evan Parker, Joseph Kalichstein, Vinko Globokar, Ray Dillard, Bob Becker, Michael Pisaro, Sean Griffin and Anthony Davis. Nichols earned his DMA from UC San Diego, MA degrees in Music from UC San Diego and Musikhögskolan in Piteå, Sweden, and his Bachelor of Music Degree from Northwestern University.