Concerted effort: Decatur family consists of musicians only

Saturday, April 8, 2006

DECATUR, Ill. -- The music goes around and around in the Nicholson house, and it comes out, well, noisy. The best kind of noise, that is.

The Decatur family is absorbed in music.

Doug Nicholson, the father, has been a music teacher for 25 years and plays keyboard in the Rock of Ages band and in the West End Trio with Randy Reyman and Steve Schepper. He also plays the guitar and has played tuba with the Sidewalk Stompers, and he is the choir director for First Presbyterian Church.

Tina Nicholson, the mother, teaches oboe methods and music theory at Millikin University and plays oboe in the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra, the Millikin Woodwind Quartet and the Danville Symphony Orchestra. And a few years ago, she made headlines when she toured the country with the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra after its English horn player became ill.

Sons Kyle and Simon, 14-year-old twins, play in the MacArthur High School band as freshmen. Kyle plays trumpet; Simon plays drums and vibes.

Daughter Claire is the most versatile. A sophomore at Butler University in Indianapolis majoring in music performance and biology, she plays bassoon in the Butler wind symphony, cello in the orchestra and tenor sax in the jazz band.

Last summer, Claire played clarinet, tenor sax and percussion in the Decatur Municipal Band. While she was a student at MacArthur, she was an All-State musician three times, playing a different instrument each time: cello as a sophomore, bassoon as a junior and tenor sax as a senior.

At Butler, Claire has her own jazz quintet, and in March, she will play bassoon with the Kokomo Symphony Orchestra.

"They all practice more than I do," Doug Nicholson admitted. "When Claire was little, she would practice the clarinet early, then practice the other instruments after school."

Doug Nicholson is from Olney. His music teachers were Gus and Mary Siva. He went on to Eastern Illinois University, where he played as an accompanist for Tina and eventually married her. Tina is from Mattoon and has a master's degree from Millikin.

"I wanted to be a music teacher," Doug said. He began teaching in 1980 in Northern Illinois and in Wisconsin. He also taught at Blue Mound and at Eisenhower High School and has been in the Meridian school district for 15 years.

"Doug does incredible things," said Leo Pondelick, who has employed Doug, Tina and Claire in the Lee Pondell Trio and groups. "He's such a great guy. Once when I needed an accordion player, Doug filled in." As for Tina, Pondelick said, "She's an exceptionally fine player."

The twins have been influenced by Jim Culbertson and Steve Schepper, public school music teachers and band directors. "I can't say enough good things about them," Doug Nicholson said.

The children attend live concerts and collect records, he said. Their first favorite CD was by Count Basie.

"I never have to make them practice -- well, once in a while I might remind them," he said.

"Music is a way of life for us. It takes our time -- practicing, rehearsing, performing. Nobody can figure how Tina runs the house and copes with such a bunch of musicians."

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