Dr. Don Nichols

Dr. Don Nichols is the Music Director for CSULB Dance. He supervises all musicians for the Department, serves as Music Director for all productions and creates, performs and manipulates music for classes, concerts and more. Dr. Nichols teaches Introduction to Music for Dance, Directed Studies and Sound Design for Dance. His vehicle for musical expression encompasses real-time electronics and a wide range of percussion instruments, which include traditional and non-traditional drum sets, resonant metals and gongs, hand percussion, found objects, Max/MSP and Ableton Live.


  • DMA in Contemporary Music Performance, UC San Diego
    • Committee: Steven Schick, Anthony Davis, Harvey Sollberger, David Antin, Allyson Green, Patricia Rincon
  • MA in Music Performance, UC San Diego
    • Committee: Steven Schick, Rand Steiger, Ed Harkins
  • MA in Music Performance, Musikhögskolan in Piteå, Sweden
    • Professors: Anders Åstrand, Janne Ferm
  • BM in Percussion Performance, Northwestern University
    • Professors: Michael Burritt, Jim Ross, Paul Wertico


Dr. 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.

As a dance collaborator, Dr. Nichols has performed extensively throughout the US and abroad, including dance festivals in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, New Hampshire, Oregon, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Argentina, Denmark and Norway. His music for dance has been presented at the ACDA National Festival, 92Y, Judson Church, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Highways Santa Monica, Joyce SOHO and numerous universities.

Dr. Nichols collaborates with a wide range of sound, dance and visual artists who have included Max Roach, Steven Schick, Roger Reynolds, Evelyn Glennie, Evan Parker, Kim Epifano, Sandra Mathern, Sean Griffin, Ron Athey, Peter Carpenter, Pat Rincon, Ray Dillard, Allyson Green, Eiichi Tosaki, Irena Knezevic, Bk Soul, Collective Purpose, Nina Martin and Lower Left Performance Collective.


The work of Dr. Nichols has been received with critical acclaim and awards. He 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)

Dr. Nichols is a former Fulbright Scholar to Sweden, where he worked closely with percussionist Anders Åstrand. He was a recipient of an Indiana Arts Commission Grant for his debut solo CD “Station of Small Sounds,” which presents a series of original electro-acoustic compositions and improvisations. 

Dr. Nichols has performed at Carnegie Hall, Disney Hall, Percussive Arts Society International Conventions, Spark Festival [MN], Sonorities Festival [N. Ireland], Agora Festival [France], La Jolla Summerfest, and Fringe Festivals in Philadelphia and San Diego.  A frequent resident artist at universities and artist colonies, Dr. Nichols has attended Guapamacataro Art and Ecology Residency, CAMAC, Djerassi and Music OMI. He is an artist for Dream Cymbals and Gongs.


dancers in white with musician playing an instrument.

Don playing discarded roof tiles.

Don on the drums