Don Nichols is a percussionist, composer and improviser dedicated to innovative and interdisciplinary performance. Nichols works in a variety of musical styles including contemporary Western solo percussion, jazz, chamber music, improvisation and electro-acoustic music. His vehicle for improvisation encompasses a wide range of percussion instruments, which include traditional and non-traditional drum sets, resonant metals and gongs, found objects, hand drums and real-time electronics.
Nichols’s work is “infectiously melodic while remaining rhythmically complex—often almost mysteriously so. His playing is perfectly reactive and interactive, and his voice is unique.” Don Seybold (Host, Inside Jazz with 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. Most recently, he was one of fifteen musicians to be awarded 2011 Individual Artist Grant by the Indiana Arts Council and was named “Best Local Drummer of 2010” by the Lafayette Journal-Courier writer Tim Brouk. Reflecting his diverse talents, Nichols performs and collaborates with a variety of leading artists, which have included Max Roach, Roger Reynolds, Evelyn Glennie, Daniel Barenboim, John Luther Adams, Vinko Globokar, Michael Pisaro and Anthony Davis.
Nichols has performed extensively throughout the US and internationally, including Carnegie Hall, Disney Hall, the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, the Melbourne Percussion Festival, the New York Performance Mix Festival, and the Agora Festival in Paris. He is a frequent artist-in-residence at universities and artist colonies, which have included the Guapamacatero Art and Ecology Residency in Maravatio, Mexico, Ohio State, San Diego State, Iowa State and Southeast Missouri State Universities. His recording credits include appearances on the Mode, Tzadik, Insides Music, Circumvention and Lampse record labels.
Following his collaborative mission, Nichols co-founded PMPD with choreographer Rebecca Bryant in 2002 as well as the E3 Series for Improvisation Performance in 2010. PMPD combines movement, sound, technology and theater elements into a brand of live art that challenges traditional notions of performance. The E3 Series is a monthly showcase of live performance from local and national artists who feature improvisation in music, dance, new media, spoken word and beyond. A frequent collaborator with dance, Nichols has created and performed music for over 30 new dance works in the past three years and is formerly the Musician for the Dance Program at Missouri State University. He has also collaborated with visual artsists, including Irena Knezevic, Eiichi Tosaki, Charles Gaines and Edgar Arceneaux.
Nichols earned his Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from the University of California, San Diego, where he worked with percussionist Steven Schick and played in the ensemble redfish bluefish. Prior to that, Nichols received Master of Arts Degrees from both the University of California, San Diego and the Musikhögskolan in Piteå, Sweden. He also received a Bachelors Degree in Music Performance from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where his primary teachers were Michael Burritt, Jim Ross, Ruben Alvarez and Paul Wertico.