- Assistant Professor of Saxophone and Music Theory
Saxophonist and composer, Dr. Ben Nichols, has travelled across the globe, performing at large venues, intimate city concerts, and countless jazz festivals throughout North America, South America and Europe. He is known internationally for his expressive sound and energetic artistic style. He is frequently asked to play in many genres and has performed and recorded with contemporaries such as: Ben Wendel (GRAMMY-nominated saxophonist), Wycliffe Gordon (Juilliard Instructor), Jon Faddis (GRAMMY-nominated trumpeter), Jeff Coffin (three-time GRAMMY-winning saxophonist), Eric Marienthal (GRAMMY-winning saxophonist), Terreon Gully (Christian McBride Band), Chris Buono (Flaming Headless Torsos), Brian Bromberg (GRAMMY-nominated bassist), Steve Smith (legendary drummer of Journey), Wayne Bergeron (GRAMMY-nominated trumpeter), Kirk Whalum (seven-time GRAMMY-nominated saxophonist), Noah Preminger, Tito Carrillo, Justin Copeland, Larry Grey, David Alvarez III, and Vaughn Stoffey.
Ben is the founder and director of the Crossover Saxophone Quartet. He was a featured soloist with this group as they world premiered his original arrangement of "Just Friends" at the North American Saxophone Alliance (N.A.S.A.) Conference in 2020. Ben was also a featured lecturer at the 2019 N.A.S.A. Conference, presenting research on contemporary intervallic compositional/arranging methods.
Ben is featured on three albums with the internationally acclaimed jazz ensemble, Synthesis. In 2013 Nichols was a featured soloist on the band’s album The Day After Yesterday that was later submitted to DownBeat Magazine. Synthesis was then named the Top Large Jazz Ensemble in the nation by DownBeat Magazine.
Ben was named Outstanding Saxophone Soloist at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in 2011. He was a member of the Ryan Innes Band, which won by popular vote the $10,000 grand prize at the Stadium of Fire in 2012 and opened for the Beach Boys.
Ben started playing piano at age eight, picked up the bass clarinet at age 12, the clarinet at age 13, saxophone at 14, and the flute at age 16. As a young teenager he played with the Crescent Super Band, a band named by DownBeat Magazine as the best high school big band in the country. He was a featured solo artist on the band’s album, It Had to Be You.
Ben had the opportunity to study privately and extensively with jazz legends Jerry Bergonzi, Donny McCaslin, Miguel Zenon, and Jason Moran. While finishing his master's degree, Ben worked as a Teaching Assistant to Jerry Bergonzi, Ken Schaphorst, and other members of the Jazz faculty at NEC. In 2016 Ben was the winner of the Cooke Fellowship to pursue a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). While getting his D.M.A., Ben studied classical saxophone with world-renowned performer and pedagogue, Debra Richtmeyer, and arranging with the Grammy-winning arranger, Chip McNeill. Ben was also selected to be a Teaching Assistant at UIUC, teaching saxophone, clarinet, and flute. In 2020 Ben completed his doctorate with a perfect 4.0/4.0 GPA.
While living in Illinois, Ben was the jazz ensemble director at the University of Illinois - Springfield, and taught saxophone, clarinet, music theory and music appreciation courses at Lincoln College. He has maintained an active performing schedule in both classical and jazz genres.
Ben is currently a full-time faculty member at the University of Nebraska at Omaha where he runs the saxophone studio (classical and jazz), directs the saxophone quartet, runs a jazz combo, and teaches courses on improvisation and commercial music theory.
For more info please visit: www.bennicholsmusic.com
DMA, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
MM, New England Conservatory of Music
BA, Brigham Young University