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Alumnus of graduate conducting program leads symphony to Carnegie Hall

In March, the Eastern Wind Symphony fulfilled a long time goal: performing at the prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York City. Todd Nichols, recent alum of the graduate conducting program at Messiah, led the symphony from behind the conductor’s stand.

“It was quite remarkable,” says Nichols, in reflection of the evening.

The symphony commissioned a new work to be written for the ensemble by Messiah College professor Bruce Yurko. The piece Yurko produced, “Red Tal Skirmish (for Wind Ensemble”), honors Tuskegee Airmen, a celebrated group of African American pilots who fought in World War II. The symphony honored two Tuskegee Airmen among the 2,000 in attendance at the concert.

The Eastern Wind Symphony, a professional group founded in 1996 and based in New Jersey, dedicates itself to performing the best wind and percussion literature. Group members are professionals, mostly music educators and freelance musicians, hailing from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. The group has performed for sold-out audiences at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., played with noted soloists from the New York Philharmonic and developed an annual Visiting Distinguished Conductor Program. Nichols serves as the artistic director of the ensemble.

Receiving his bachelor’s degree from The College of New Jersey, Nichols began his position as director of bands and music educator at Roxbury High School 15 years ago. He decided to continue his education at Messiah College, obtaining a master’s degree in performance conducting in 2010. A summer-intensive program, Nichols completed it without having to leave his job as a full-time educator.

“I found the program to be extremely rewarding and my study was directly related to my teaching and conducting both in the public school and in my professional life as a conductor,” says Nichols.

Nichols uses his skills and education obtained from Messiah to aid his success in directing these two prestigious bands today.

“I especially enjoyed the summer-intensive program and am incredibly grateful for having the opportunity to study with incredible professors and teachers from Messiah College,” says Nichols.

By Emily Mohler `13.