Gary Nicholson, music director of the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony Association and conductor of its top orchestra, co-founded the organization in 1980. Mr. Nicholson came to Colorado Springs in 1976 after graduating from Wichita State University, Magna cum Laude, with degrees in Music Education and Music Performance with honors. Upon arrival in Colorado Springs, Mr. Nicholson began teaching in School District 11 and playing trumpet with the Colorado Springs Symphony Orchestra.
As a trumpeter, Mr. Nicholson has performed with the Aspen Music Festival, the Wichita Symphony, the Colorado Opera Festival, the Colorado College Conservatory of Music, the Colorado Springs Chorale, Music Theater of the Rockies, the Fine Arts Center Repertory Theater, and the Colorado Springs Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Nicholson has also performed with Abendmusik, a professional level vocal ensemble. Mr. Nicholson has served as a guest conductor/clinician in Wisconsin, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Japan, and Australia. From 1995 to 1998, he was the Music Director and Conductor of the Colorado College Chamber Orchestra. Mr. Nicholson has led the Youth Symphony on tours to New York City, Washington D.C., Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Turkey and China.
The Youth Symphony has performed in such prestigious venues as the Mozarteum in Salzburg (2000), the Kennedy Center (2001), Carnegie Hall (2005, 2016), Sydney Opera House (1998, 2002, 2006, 2010), Shanghai Oriental Art Center (2008), and the National Concert Hall in Sofia, Bulgaria (2012). In 2000, the Youth Symphony received First Place in the Full Orchestra category at the International Youth and Music Festival in Vienna, Austria.
In addition to his work with the Youth Symphony, Mr. Nicholson is a strong proponent of music education, just recently retiring from 26 years of teaching band and orchestra in Colorado Springs School District #11 and, most recently, Cheyenne Mountain School District #12. In 2009, Mr. Nicholson was selected by the Greenberg Center for Learning and Tolerance as one of the top 100 “residents whose vision and actions have made a difference in the development of this great city from 1871 to 2009”. In 2010 and 2015, Mr. Nicholson was the Keynote Speaker for Tri-M members (high school musicians/leaders) at the annual Colorado Music Educators Association conference held at the Broadmoor. Mr. Nicholson continues to perform regularly with the Colorado Springs Philharmonic. He and his wife, Donna Sheldon, enjoy living in Colorado Springs and have a son and daughter-in-law, Aaron and Kaori, who both work in School District #11. Outside of the world of music, he enjoys traveling, skiing, reading, landscaping/gardening, hiking, camping, and great food.