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October Alumni Spotlight - J. William “Jamaal” Nicholas, ’22

J. William “Jamaal” Nicholas graduated with a Doctor of Musical Arts in Conducting in 2022. Jamaal is the Director of Bands at Tuskegee University in Alabama. We caught up with Jamaal to discuss his time at the School of Music and current career. 

Why did you choose the UofSC School of Music? 

When I was applying to graduate schools and other professors were sending acceptance notifications by email, Dr. Cormac Cannon called me and personally invited me to study with him. I truly appreciated that personal touch. I believe the effort to make each moment personal, memorable and positively impactful is what sets the UofSC School of Music apart from others. 

What person, course or experience was most influential for you while at the School of Music?

The opportunity to work with Dr. Cannon was hugely impactful in reframing my approach to teaching instrumental music. Having a safe space to critically reflect and evaluate my effectiveness as a musical leader was invaluable during my time at UofSC and currently influences my work at Tuskegee University. 

 How has your education at School of Music helped you in your life and career? 

In addition to becoming a more effective conductor and stronger musician through opportunities to study and conduct wind band literature, my life has unquestionably been enriched by the fantastic people I met in Columbia. There is an incredible network of highly talented musicians and scholars at the UofSC School of Music! 

 What is one of your favorite memories, classes, professors or activities while attending the School of Music? 

My favorite memory is my first home game experience at Williams-Brice Stadium. The energy was absolutely electric, and the roar of the crowd as “2001” played and Cocky emerged is an experience I will never forget! 

What advice would you give current students or recent graduates pursuing a music performance or music education career? 

Approach all opportunities with gratitude.  Learn as much as you can from everyone you meet.  Listen much, laugh loudly and treat EVERYONE with respect.

What is one of your proudest professional or personal accomplishments that occurred after graduating? 

Becoming Director of Bands at Tuskegee University, a Historically Black University founded by Booker T. Washington with a decades-long tradition of excellence. 

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.