Jon P. Nichols

Jon Nichols

Since 2007, Dr. Jon Nichols has conducted the Grand Rapids Accordion Ensemble in more than 150 performances at festivals, community events, nursing home appearances, formal concerts, and the production of 3 CD recordings. Nichols has expanded the repertoire of the GRAE, which includes traditional, ethnic, and popular music, selections from the Broadway stage, and classical offerings. In collaboration over the years with music arrangers Paul Storm and Janet Nichols, and the effective inclusion of woodwind, brass, and bass voice instruments, the sound of the GRAE has become very “orchestral” in nature, allowing the group to play a variety of music in characteristic settings. Nichols assumed the directorship of the GRAE after retiring as director of bands and music department chair at Wyoming Rogers High School in Grand Rapids.

With 53 years as a conductor, band, orchestra, and percussion educator, Nichols has distinguished himself in many areas, not the least of which is as a passionate advocate for music education in the school curriculum. A native of Lansing, Michigan with degrees from MSU and The University of Iowa, his playing experience includes membership in the Lansing Symphony Orchestra, the Sandler and Young Show Orchestra, West Michigan Wind Symphony, Muskegon Civic Opera, Kalamazoo Concert Band, Cedar Rapids Municipal Band, Bemidji, Minnesota Choral Society, Grand Rapids Symphonic Band, and the Zeeland Community Band. As a conductor, his leadership helped earn the Alpena, Michigan High School Band its first Division I rating in Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA) concert festivals. The Vicksburg, Michigan High School Band under his direction served as a feature band at both Western Michigan University and Michigan State University Band Days, and won the Best in Class award at the 1981 Six Flags over Mid-America Concert Band Festival in St. Louis, Missouri. During his doctoral internship in The University of Iowa School of Music, he supervised student teachers and conducted the Iowa University Band, a credited ensemble designed for non-music majors who simply enjoyed playing in a concert band. Nichols also spent four years as a professor of music and director of the long-established summer music camp at Bemidji State University. In the Wyoming Public Schools, Rogers and Jackson Park Bands under his direction earned 16 Division I ratings in MSBOA marching band festivals, 13 first place awards in West Michigan invitational marching band festivals, and 36 Division I ratings in MSBOA concert band festivals. The Wyoming Rogers Symphony Band also received the first place trophy at the 1993 Heritage Music Festival in Nashville, Tennessee. Nichols authored the first performance-based curriculum for instrumental music study in the Wyoming Schools and was active in school district public relations and community activities during his 20-year tenure with that district. Regionally and internationally known conductors and soloists appeared on a regular basis with his ensembles. These individuals include William Berz, Kenneth Bloomquist, David Catron, Leonard Falcone, Robert Gray, Eddie Green, Tom Hagen, Steve Houghton, Bob Havens, Daniel Kovats, John Madden, Leonard Meretta, Howard Niblock, Stephen Peterson, Jack Pierson, Raymond Roth, Paul Stanifer, Richard Suddendorf, Henry VanderLinde, and John Whitwell.

Nichols has held active membership and leadership roles in a number of professional and community organizations. Early in his career, he served as president of the West Michigan Wind Symphony (currently known as the West Michigan Concert Winds) and vice president of MSBOA District 11. A charter member of the Bemidji Kiwanis Club, he edited the club newsletter and was recording secretary for three years. An elected member of the prestigious American School Band Directors' Association (ASBDA) he served as the group’s National Research Coordinator and subsequently was elected to the ASBDA National Executive Board. Nichols has authored 29 articles on music education that have been published in various professional journals and is credited for developing the first published performance-based curriculum for instrumental music study, released by ASBDA in 1992. From 2005-09, he was selected as the equipment coordinator and MSBOA planning committee representative for the newly created Michigan Music Conference in Grand Rapids.

Dr. Nichols was a highly active and experienced music festival adjudicator for over 41 years, having judged festivals in Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Canada. His wife, Janet S. Nichols, also a retired music educator, served as the director of choral activities and associate director of bands at Rogers High School and Jackson Park Middle School from 1987-2007. She also held teaching positions in Howard City and Vicksburg, Michigan, Iowa City, Iowa, and Blackduck, Minnesota. Jon and Janet Nichols are the parents of two grown children and are the proud grandparents of Abigail SueAnn Cole and Riley Preston Cole.