On The Record – George Nickson


Principal Percussion George Nickson (Margie and William H. Seay Chair) talks about his passion for contemporary music and his mango-filled apocalypse van.

Listen to the interview and explore the music below


“The final trio, for me, is more or less the manifestation of everything I’ve grown to love about orchestral music and opera in general.  The pacing, how long and how incredibly the music can build up to such an incredible apex of sound…

Finally when the timpanist enters with this huge roll at the top of the climax of the entire opera…it’s some of the most sublime beauty that exists in all of music.”


“Steve Reich and his Music For 18 is for me sort of a turning point in music, especially in our field as percussionists… It really is this unbelievable journey. Every time I’ve performed it, it’s been a transformative experience.  It builds to the point at Section VI, and if you’re listening to it, maybe start at Section V, because there’s this moment where for the first time, the maracas come in, and it’s just this unbelievable burst of energy.”  


“The Concord Sonata is based off of these transcendentalists who were all living around Concord Massachusetts at the time… it’s really an incredible combination of what Ives is capable of doing… 

In this movement of this piece, for me it’s just crushingly beautiful how he combines multiple ideas. He combines American hymns, this feeling of New England, with the concept of fate and how it’s experienced through the main motive of Beethoven’s Fifth.  This comes back again and again in this movement.  Then how he’s able to combine that with these ethereal thoughts and drifting thoughts is for me very moving, very beautiful music.”


“If you just have to put on a song that gets everyone dancing and gets the energy up, for me it’s this song.  It also has some interesting ties to me in the drum part.  The groove that the drummer of Toto is playing… has a very specific name.  It’s called the Purdy shuffle.  It’s become this really famous beat that people use frequently, and this one is maybe the most famous version.”

Listen to other episodes of On The Record with Sarah Kienle: